IRA members who were charged with crimes in the Republic in the 1980s were on average a decade older than their counterparts in the North, a new book says.
Most came from Dublin, Louth and Monaghan, and the most common charges they faced in court were armed robbery or possession of guns or explosives.
In A Broad Church: The Provisional IRA in the Irish Republic, Volume 2: 1980-1989, author Gearóid Ó Faoleán uses court reports from newspapers to build a picture of the organisation’s membership in the Republic.
More than a third (37pc) were aged 30 to 45 and 17pc were over 45. The eldest was 72. Just one in 10 IRA members in the Republic was 18 to 21, compared with nearly a quarter in the 1970s.
Mr Ó Faoleán estimates the average age of IRA defendants here was 33, “relatively old for active participation and indeed five years older than the average age of the same group in the previous decade”.
An academic study of republican prisoners in Northern Ireland in the 1980s found more than half were under 21 and only 11pc were over 30.
Mr Ó Faoleán views the fall in young IRA members appearing before the courts as partly due to the lack of intelligence gardaí had on new recruits.
The IRA’s Southern Command moved solidly into a support role in the 1980s. “Gone were the heady days of the early 1970s when it was not uncommon for volunteers from Kerry, Cork and Limerick to be engaged in active service around and across the Border,” he writes.
Almost half of defendants faced charges relating to storing or moving guns or explosives. The second-most common charge was armed robbery, reflecting the Southern Command’s central role in fund-raising.
Nearly a third of defendants in the Republic were from Dublin. The IRA had a strong presence in the city “with a brigade based on each side of the Liffey”.
Kerry, Cork and Limerick made up around 15pc of cases in line with their “strong traditions of militant republicanism”.