Local Terms & Acronyms
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This is a guide to the local terms and acronyms used in Ireland and Britain in reference to Northern Ireland and the conflict and conflict resolution.


Active Service
Term used by the IRA to describe when its members are on an IRA operation.

Alliance Party
A small Northern moderate political party which wishes to maintain the union with Britain.

National executive, usually of a political party.

Árd Fheis
Annual convention, usually of a political party.


TDs without portfolios.

Bunreacht na hÉireann
The Constitution of Ireland.


In the South, Catholics comprise the overwhelming majority of the Republic's 3.6 million population. In the North, Catholics comprise 43 per cent of the population and total 645,000. Although the largest single religious denomination, Catholics are in the minority in Northern Ireland.

Catholic Reaction Force. Responsible for the murder of three church elders in the Darkley Pentecostal church, November 1983. The CRF is reputed to be a cover name for the INLA.

A term used to denote the British Government and all the forces, such as the British Army, and institutions that compose the British State, whose constitutional head is the Queen.

Continuity IRA / CIRA
One of the splinter republican groups which has emerged in recent times and which remain implacably opposed to the current peace talks.


Dáil Éireann
Seat of Irish parliament.

Democratic Left - Founded in 1992, in a break away from the Workers' Party when Soviet-style socialism was rejected. In the last Dail the party had five members in the Dáil and one member in the Seanad and was one of three members of the Rainbow Coalition which was in office in the Republic of Ireland from November '95 until June '97.

Democratic Unionist Party - right-wing party, owing its origins to the Ulster Unionist Party. Fiercely anti-republican, and led by one of the most controversial party leaders in the country - the Rev Ian Paisley.


Economic and Social Research Institute.

The special intelligence unit of the RUC alleged to have taken part in several "shoot to kill" incidents in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s.


A term, usually pejorative, for a Catholic that implies that he or she is a Republican. The original Fenians were an Irish-American revolutionary group in the 1860s.

Fianna Fáil
The country's largest political party, founded by Éamon de Valera in 1926. A centrist political party with strong republican leanings. The leader of the party is Mr Bertie Ahern.

Na Fianna
A republican youth movement which has affiliations with Sinn Féin

Fine Gael
The country's second largest political party. A Christian Democrat party, founded in 1933, which won over 25 per cent of the total votes cast in the general election of November, 1992. The party holds 47 out of the 166 seats in Dáil Éireann, and was the largest party in the Government. The leader of Fine Gael is Michael Noonan.


Gaelic Athletic Association (Governing body for Gaelic games including hurling, gaelic football, and handball). The GAA currently prohibits members of the security forces in Northern Ireland from becoming members of the GAA.

Police - Full name is Garda Síochána ie guardians of the peace. The force is unarmed.

Plural of Garda


Colloquial name for the buildings in the Maze Prison where most paramilitary prisoners are held.

Higher Education Authority


Industrial Development Authority (State body charged with attracting foreign industry.)

Industrial Development Board (NI body charged with attracting foreign industry to Northern Ireland).

Irish National Liberation Army (Small republican paramilitary organisation.)

Irish People's Liberation Organisation (Breakaway group from INLA).

Irish Republican Army (Major republican paramilitary organisation).The IRA's goal is a united Ireland. It called a ceasefire in 1994 but returned to violence in February, 1996.

Irish Republican Socialist Party (political wing of the INLA)


Junior Ministers
Officially Ministers of State. They are not members of the Cabinet. They work closely with ministers in charge of departments.

Joint Declaration on Northern Ireland (1993)
Sets out the basic principles to be followed in establishing a framework for the settlement of political relationships in Ireland and between Ireland and Britain.


Labour Party
Founded in 1912 at a conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress in Clonmel under the inspiration of James Connolly, Jim Larkin and William O'Brien. It is represented in Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and in the European Parliament as a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Body charged with developing small indigenous industries throughout the North.

Leinster House
Houses both the Dail and the Seanad. Situated on Kildare Street in Dublin.

Someone who is resolutely opposed to a united Ireland and who favours maintaining the Union with Britain.

Loyalist Volunteer Force - Active loyalist paramilitary group which is resolutely opposed to the peace talks. Has committed more than 16 sectarian murders since it was formed in during the Drumcree stand-off in 1996. Its first leader, Billy Wright, was murdered by the INLA in the Maze Prison on December 27 1997.


Member of the European Parliament

The British domestic intelligence service that has overall control of the British Government's battle against the IRA.

Britain's overseas intelligence services.

Member of (the British) Parliament.


Someone who aspires to a reunited Ireland by non-violent means.

Northern Ireland Office - the administrative headquarters for the North, headed by the Northern Secretary and a team of British Government Ministers.

Irish Northern Aid Committee. American-based republican fund raising group.


Officer Commanding.

Official IRA
Republican paramilitary faction. The IRA split in 1969 left two organisations, the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA. The Official IRA declared a ceasefire in 1972 and is said to have disbanded. It had close ties to the Workers Party.

Oglaigh na hEireann
Gaelic term for the Irish Republican Army. Used by the IRA in official statements and bomb warnings.

Name to cover both houses of the Irish Parliament (i.e. The Dáil and the Seanad) and the President.


People's Democracy
A left-wing radical group. Formed in 1968, it played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement.

Progressive Democrats
The Progressive Democrat Party was formed in 1985. There are four Dáil Deputies and two senators. The PD leader is Mary Harney, the first woman to lead a political party in the State.

Proportional Representation
The manner in which elections are carried out. With PR members are elected by means of a single transferable vote (stv). No constituency may have less than three members.

A member of any of the different Christian denominations in Ireland, excluding Catholicism. The Protestant population stands at 855,000 and comprises 57 per cent of the total population of Northern Ireland. The vast majority of Protestants in Northern Ireland support the Union with Britain.

Protestant Action Force. Cover name used by the loyalist UVF

Another name for the modern-day IRA, which split in 1969 at the outbreak of the Troubles into two factions, the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA. The Provisionals soon eclipsed their Official rivals and the term Provisional is now synonymous with the IRA.

Progressive Unionist Party - small fringe unionist party associated with the loyalist paramilitary force, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).


Quarter-Master General
A leading member of the IRA's Army Council and the person charged with the provision of arms to pursue a terrorist campaign.


Red Hand Commandos
An illegal loyalist paramilitary group responsible for many sectarian killings.

A vote by all citizens over 18 on a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

A supporter of a united Ireland.

Republican Movement
A term used to cover both Sinn Féin, the legal political wing of the IRA, and the IRA, the illegal military wing of the republican movement.

Royal Irish Regiment - British Army regiment formed in 1992 with the amalgamation of the Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish Rangers.

Radio Telefís Éireann (The state-run broadcasting authority). RTÉ1 and Network 2 are its two television channels.

Royal Ulster Constabulary (The police force of Northern Ireland).


Special Air Services - An undercover wing of the British Army.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (The major nationalist political party in the North. It is opposed to violence.)

Shankill Butchers
A loyalist gang based in the Shankill area of Belfast whose reign of terror in the 1970s was responsible for the sectarian killing of 19 people in as many months.

Sinn Féin
The political wing of the IRA. Not an illegal organisation.

Special Branch
Intelligence divisions in police forces, North and South of the Border.

The seat of government in Northern Ireland and the location of the multi-party talks.


Prime Minister (Head of Government; the President is Head of State), currently the leader of the Fianna Fail party, Mr Bertie Ahern.

Deputy Prime Minister, currently the leader of the Progressive Democrats, Ms Mary Harney

Teachta Dála (Member of the Dáil).

Troubles, or Ireland's Troubles
Euphemism for the period covering the violence in Northern Ireland - generally considered to have begun in the wake of the civil rights marches in Northern Ireland in 1969.

Troops Out Movement
A British-based organised group which believes the British presence in Ireland is the most serious obstacle to any progress towards peace.


Ulster Defence Association (An outlawed loyalist organisation which acts as a front for the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).

Ulster Democratic Party - small fringe unionist party with few elected councillors. It is linked to linked to the UDA/UFF.

Ulster Defence Regiment. Branch of the British army, set up in 1970 to replace the discredited B-Specials. Composed mainly of Protestants, it was considered by nationalists to be a sectarian organisation. Some of its members have been jailed for paramilitary activities. After disbandment in 1992, the UDR was replaced by the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR)

Ulster Freedom Fighters (An illegal loyalist para-military group) - synonymous with the UDA.

Someone who believes in maintaining Northern Ireland's political Union with Great Britain.

Ulster Television - the independent commercial television channel serving the North.

The largest political party in Northern Ireland, supports the continuing governance of Northern Ireland from Westminster. It is led by David Trimble.

Ulster Volunteer Force (An illegal loyalist para-military group which has links with the Progressive Unionist Party).

Ulster Workers Council
Loyalist organisation that staged a two-week-long strike in 1974 that succeeded in bringing down the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive. It was formed in opposition to what it perceived as interference by the Republic of Ireland in the Affairs of Northern Ireland.


(Vehicle Check Point) - British army term.


Workers' Party (a small extreme left-wing political party).

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