Irish People's Liberation Organisation

The Irish People's Liberation Organisation was a small Irish republican paramilitary organisation which was formed in 1986 by disaffected and expelled members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) whose factions coalesced in the aftermath of the supergrass trials. It developed a reputation for intra-republican and sectarian violence and criminality, before being forcibly disbanded by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1992.

Irish People's Liberation Organisation
Participant in the Troubles
IPLO volunteers at the funeral of Martin O'Prey
Active1986 – May 1992
IdeologyIrish republicanism
Left-wing nationalism
Revolutionary Socialism
Group(s)Republican Socialist Collective (political wing)
LeadersJimmy Brown, Gerard Steenson
Sammy Ward (IPLOBB Leader)
Area of operationsNorthern Ireland
Size150–200 between 1986–1992
between 30–40 active Volunteers at one time
Opponent(s)United Kingdom
Royal Ulster Constabulary
British Army
Ulster Defence Association
Red Hand Commando
Ulster Volunteer Force
Irish National Liberation Army (December 1986 – March 1987)
Provisional IRA (October – November 1992)
IPLO Belfast Brigade (August 1992)
Battles and war(s)George Seawright assassination
Rosnaree Hotel shooting
Orange Cross Social Club shooting
Donegall Arms shooting
Night of the Long Knives (1992)

Some of the IPLO's most notable attacks during its short existence (compared to other paramilitary groups in Ireland during The Troubles) were:

Both the IPLO and INLA were much smaller than the main Republican paramilitary group in the 1980s, the Provisional IRA who had about 1,000 Vounteers both on active service and others in supports roles. The IPLO would have been about the same size as a medium strength IRA brigade like the West Tyrone or the North Armagh brigades.

On 1 May 1990 the IPLO became a Proscribed Organization by the British government.[2] The IPLO remains a Proscribed Organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000.[3]


The IPLO emerged from a split within the INLA. After the 1981 Irish hunger strike, in which three of its members died, the INLA began to break apart. The INLA virtually dissolved as a coherent force in the mid-1980's. Factions associated with Belfast and Dublin fell into dispute with each other. When INLA man Harry Kirkpatrick turned supergrass, he implicated many of his former comrades in various activities and many of them were convicted on his testimony.

Members both inside and out of prison broke away from the INLA and set up the IPLO. Some key players at the outset were Tom McAllister, Gerard Steenson, Jimmy Brown and Martin 'Rook' O'Prey. Jimmy Brown formed a minor political group, known as the Republican Socialist Collective, which was to act as the political wing of the IPLO.[4]

The IPLO's initial priority was to forcibly disband the Irish Republican Socialist Movement from which it had split, and most of its early attacks reflected this, being more frequently against former comrades than on the security forces. The feud with the INLA lasted from 1986 to 1987 and resulted in the deaths of 12 people including IPLO leader Gerard Steenson who was shot in March 1987.[5]

Internal feud

The IPLO was accused of becoming involved in the illegal drug trade, especially in ecstasy. Some of its Belfast members were also accused of the prolonged gang rape of a North Down woman in Divis Flats in 1990.[6] Many of its recruits had fallen out of favour with the IRA and the portents for its future were not good. Sammy Ward, a low-level IPLO member, broke away from the main body of the organisation with a few supporters when the IPLO were severely depleted and weak in Belfast. His faction attacked the rest of the IPLO, culminating in the killing of Jimmy Brown. A full-scale feud followed between two factions terming themselves "Army Council" (led by Jimmy Brown) and "Belfast Brigade" (led by Ward), which led to the 3000th killing of the Troubles, Hugh McKibben, a 21-year-old "Army Council" man. Brown had been the previous victim when he was shot dead in West Belfast on 18 August 1992.[7] This feud was described by the IPLO's critics as a lethal squabble over money and drugs.


The Provisional IRA – by far the largest armed republican group in Ireland – decided this was an opportunity to attack and remove the IPLO given the IPLO's involvement in the drug trade. They mounted an operation to wipe out the IPLO. On Saturday 31 October 1992, in an event that was later dubbed "Night of the Long Knives" by locals in Belfast,[8] the IRA attacked the two IPLO factions in Belfast, killing the breakaway Belfast Brigade leader Sammy Ward in Short Strand.[9] There were also raids on pubs and clubs where IPLO members were kneecapped. On 2 November 1992 the second-in-command of the IPLO Belfast Brigade formally surrendered to the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade adjutant, which brought an end to the group in Belfast.[10]

Outside Belfast the IRA did not attack any IPLO units and issued statements absolving the IPLO units in Derry, Newry and Armagh from any involvement in the drugs trade that was alleged against those in Belfast. In Dublin the IRA reprieved the IPLO Chief of Staff in return for surrendering a small cache of arms held in Ballybough.[10]


According to the Sutton database of deaths at the University of Ulster's CAIN project, the IPLO was responsible for 22 killings during the Troubles. Among its victims were twelve civilians, six INLA members, two loyalist paramilitary figures and two members of the British security forces, a Royal Navy reservist and a Royal Ulster Constabulary constable.

List of attacks/actions


  • Autumn - Former INLA Volunteers led by Jimmy Brown broke away to form the Irish People's Liberation Army (IPLA) which was later renamed the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO).[11] They also set up a small political wing called the Republican Socialist Collective (RSC).[12]
  • 10 November - Off-duty RUC officer Derek Patterson was shot dead by the IPLO[13]
  • 29 November - The IPLO launched a hand grenade attack on Queens Street RUC station in Belfast injuring six officers.[14]
  • 21 December - Thomas McCartan (31), a member of the INLA, was shot dead by the Irish People's Liberation Organisation in Andersonstown, Belfast. This was the first killing in an INLA / IPLO feud that was to last until March 1987.[15][16]


  • 20 January - The IPLO killed two leading members of the INLA (Thomas "Ta" Power & John O'Reilly), they shot them inside a hotel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.[17]
  • 18 February - The IPLO shot dead INLA Volunteer Michael Kearney near his home in Ballymurphy, Belfast.[18]
  • 21 March - The IPLO shot dead a Catholic INLA Volunteer Emmanuel Gargan on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.[18][19]
  • 22 March - The IPLO shot dead INLA Volunteer Kevin Duffy. His body was found in the playground of St. Brigid's School, Nursery Road, Armagh. This was the last killing of the IPLO/INLA feud.[18]
  • 19 November - George Seawright an extreme Loyalist activist known for his anti-Catholic views was shot by the IPLO and he died of his wounds on the 3 December 1987.[20]


  • 9 August - The IPLO sent a parcel bomb to the home of Unionist politician William McCrea but the bomb was defused.[21]
  • 12 August - A bomb exploded near the law courts in Belfast. Later a bomb was defused in East Belfast.[22]
  • 19 August - A parcel bomb was sent to the home of Unionist MP Ken Maginnis.[22]
  • 7 September - UDA Volunteer William Quee was shot and killed by the IPLO at his shop in Oldpark Road, Belfast.[23]
  • 3 October - The IPLO shot dead Henry McNamee at his girlfriends home at Lenadoon Avenue, Belfast. The IPLO claimed he was an informer.[23]


  • 18 February - Orange Cross Social Club shooting The IPLO attacked a Protestant pub, killing RHC Volunteer Stephen McRea & injuring several people.[24][25]
  • 6 November - Catholic civilian Robbert Burns was shot dead by the IPLO near his home in Milltown Avenue, Co. Antrim, mistaken for a security forces member.[24]


  • 14 March - The IPLO launched a gun attack on RUC officers home in West Belfast. Later on in East Belfast an assassination attempt failed. Nobody was hurt in either attack.[22]
  • 20 March - William McClure a Protestant civilian was shot dead at his Belfast home by an IPLO hit squad.[26]
  • 28 March - The IPLO became a proscribed organization in Northern Ireland.[27]
  • 18 April - An IPLO unit was ambushed by undercover British soldiers as they tried to attack a local RUC man in South Armagh. A gun battle ensued and the commander of the IPLO unit and former Provisional IRA volunteer Martin Corrigan was killed in the gun battle.[28]
  • 15 July - The IPLO shot dead William Sloss a Protestant civilian in his home in Lisburn, Belfast.[26]
  • 1 August - An IPLO unit tried to kill leading Loyalist "Chuck" Berry but failed.[22]
  • 11 September - The IPLO was behind the shooting and injuring of a Protestant civilian on the Shankill Road, Belfast.[22]


  • 20 April - An IPLO Volunteer lost three fingers after a botched hand grenade attack on Bessbrook RUC station.[29]
  • 5 June - An IPLO hit team tried to assassinate Eddie McIlwaine, a member of the notorious Shankill Butchers, McIlwaine survived his injuries.[29]
  • 18 July - The IPLO shot dead an off duty member of the Royal Navy at his shop in Church Lane, Belfast.[30]
  • 3 September - The IPLO shot and wounded a Protestant civilian in North Belfast.[29]
  • 7 October - An IPLO unit fired shots into a Protestant-owned bar with a machine gun in south Belfast injuring 2 people.[31][29]
  • 10 October - An IPLO active service unit carried out a gun attack on the Diamond Jubilee Bar on the Shankill Road Belfast, killing a UDA Volunteer Harry Ward & injuring several people. Later that night the IPLO shot and injure a Protestant civilian in Newry.[30][32][29]
  • 12 December - the IPLO carried out a firebombing attack on a veterinary surgery in Newry claiming it served the British Army. The claim was denied.[29]
  • 15 December - The IPLO shot dead a Catholic civilian Colm Mahon at his workplace on Little Donegal Street, Belfast.[30]
  • 21 December - The IPLO shot dead two Protestant civilians Barry Watson and Thomas Gorman during a gun attack carried out on the Donegall Arms pub in Roden Street, Village, Belfast.[30][33]


  • 17 February - The IPLO shot dead a Protestant civilian at his workplace in Upper Crumlin Road, Belfast.[34]
  • 5 May - The IPLO shot dead a Protestant civilian during a gun attack on the Mount Inn pup, North Queen Street, Belfast. The IPLO claimed the attack was revenge for the killing of one of their own Volunteers six days earlier by the Ulster Volunteer Force.[34]
  • June - An armed IPLO unit led by Sammy Ward burst into a pub in Belfast on the Antrim Road and read out a statement which said in part "the IPLO would not take Provo aggression lying down". Several members of the IRA were drinking in the pub at the time. This led to further tension between the IPLO and the IRA.[35]
  • 18 August - Leading IPLO member Jimmy Brown was shot dead by the IPLO Belfast Brigade. This was the start of an internal IPLO feud.[34]
  • 20 August - The IPLO shot and seriously injured a security guard at his home in Bessbrook.[29]
  • 27 August - Hugh McKibben, a member of the IPLO Army Council, was shot dead at the Lámh Dhearg GAA social club on the outskirts of Belfast. His was killed by the IPLO Belfast Brigade during an internal IPLO feud. Two other men were wounded in the attack.[29][34]
  • 1 September - Michael Macklin an IPLO member was shot dead in the Whiterock area of west Belfast. A Dublin-based IPLO faction accused him of being involved in the ‘Belfast Brigade of the IPLO’ a breakaway faction responsible for the killing of both Hugh McKibben and Jimmy Brown.[29]
  • 11 September - The IPLO shot dead a Catholic civilian in Ballymurphy, Belfast.[34]
  • 20 September - The IPLO firebombed a pub in Belfast City Centre called "The Waterfront". The pub was firebombed because it failed to pay money to the IPLO through extortion. This was one of the last actions carried out by the paramilitary group during a six-year campaign.[36]


  • 21 April – A group of men claiming to be from the IPLO carried out a robbery on a Credit Union in Newry.[37]



  1. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1987".
  2. Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Amendment) Order 1990: HL Deb 01 May 1990 vol 518 cc976-9
  3. "Terrorism Act 2000". Schedule 2, Act No. 11 of 2000.
  4. "Irish Nationalist & Irish Republican political groups". Archived from the original on 18 August 2011.
  5. "Terrorists' split could erupt into bloody feud: Violence in Northern". The Independent. 22 August 1992.
  6. Ballymurphy and the Irish War by De Baroid p. 331
  7. INLA – Deadly Divisions by Holland and McDonald, Torc (1994), p. 334
  8. INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 342
  9. INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 341
  10. INLA Deadly Divisions Jack Holland p. 343
  11. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994 p.279
  12. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994
  13. "CAIN: Victims: Memorials: Search Results Page".
  14. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 279
  15. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  16. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1986".
  17. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  18. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  19. Clines, Francis X.; Times, Special to The New York (29 March 1987). "A Dozen Die as Ulster's Rebels Feud" via
  20. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  21. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 310
  22. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 367
  23. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  24. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  25. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 314
  26. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  28. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 315
  29. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 368
  30. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  31. Lister, David; Jordan, Hugh (19 April 2013). "Mad Dog: The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and 'C Company'". Random House via Google Books.
  32. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  33. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  34. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  35. McDonald, Henry; Holland, Jack (29 June 2016). "I.N.L.A - Deadly Divisions". Poolbeg Press Ltd via Google Books.
  36. "Bombed out shell of "The Waterfront" pub|Belfast MS Ditto| MS Ditto|..." Getty Images.
  37. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1997".
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