Irish Republican Army Overview: “Green Book”

Subject: Warfare
Pages: 5
Words: 1377
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: PhD


This briefing contains an overview of the information that is contained in the IRA’s terrorist manual, code-named ‘The Green Book’. The manual was discovered recently when officers raided a suspected IRA hideout. The document appears to contain vital information about the recruitment and operations of the terrorist group. In addition, the document is shrouded in secrecy and this is the first time that British counterterrorism officers have managed to lay their hands on a copy of this training and induction manual. We are not sure for how long the IRA has been using and circulating this manual to recruits but preliminary intelligence indicates that the book might have been in use since the 1950s. The IRA Green Book contains useful snippets of information that could aid in the understanding and subsequent dismantling of the organization. For instance, the book outlines a statement of the organization’s military goals, war tactics, and preconditions for defeating the British Government, and a code of conduct for all IRA personnel. This briefing aims to seek the value that the IRA’s Green Book will have on our intelligence organs with emphasis on the threat that the terrorist organization poses.

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The Addressee of the Green Book

The Green Book is mainly aimed at propagating the code of silence and secrecy among IRA operatives and as such, the manual begins with a warning to its audience; “loose talk costs lives”1. The manual is meant to be issued to all IRA volunteers for use in training and induction and, it is a secret document that should not fall into the hands of IRA non-members. IRA issues a strict warning against holders of the manual making any of its contents public information. All IRA volunteers are expected to study the manual carefully and absorb its rules and lessons delicately. It is obvious that the manual covers just a little part of IRA’s training process but it gives a useful overview of the mindsets and goals of the terror organization.

The Organization of IRA as Seen in the Contents of the Green Book

The manual that is currently in our hands is believed to be a new edition of another one that was previously published around the year 1956. However, the document appears to reiterate on

  • the social and political structures of the IRA
  • the strategies and the tactics of the military organization
  • the strategies and the tactics of the enemy (including the counterterrorism technology that is used by the British security organs)
  • the military resources and advantages of the IRA

The IRA has adopted a combative stance against the British government as revealed by the organization’s manual. Consequently, the British security agencies are in a ‘war’ against an organization and not necessarily its individuals. Although the manual does not reveal the command structure of the IRA, it is expected that the organization has a highly functional command structure. The most important participants in the IRA’s operations as revealed by the Green Book are the ‘Guerrilla’ or the ’military volunteer’. The book is primarily meant to equip the volunteer secret operatives with the necessary military strength as he comes face to face with the enemy (the British government). The author of the manual is not explicitly mentioned but the tone that is used throughout the guide is representative of ‘the voice against British’, which is IRA’s main mantra.

The Strategies

The main strategy that is used by the IRA is secrecy. On several occasions, the organization’s manual declares that the maintenance of secrecy is the main difference between overall success and failure for the organization. The book specifically cites drunkenness as a threat to its code of silence because “drink-induced loose talk is the most potential danger facing any organization, and in military organization it is suicide”2. IRA also sets out to use historical facts among others to convince recruits that the war against Britain and all it’s associated with is justified. The manual outlines that the only reason an individual should join the ranks of the IRA is that he understands the main aims of the organization as opposed to doing so to seek adventure and sensation. Propaganda is also alluded to in the Green Book but only in the sense that it is a countermeasure against British propagated information. Nevertheless, the overall strategy for the IRA is to equip its operatives with the necessary military, tactical, psychological, and physical strength that can enable them to circumvent the institutions of our government. For instance, recruits are expected to withstand the arrest, interrogation, and prosecution tactics of the British government.

The Tactics

Several tactics are outlined in respect to how they can be used by military volunteers for them to have the ability to bring down the British systems. The volunteer or the civilian secret operative of the IRA is tasked with carrying out all the agendas of the organization whilst avoiding the detection of any other entity. Furthermore, the volunteer is strongly advised to take defensive precautions and understand that violence is the only means of action at his disposal. Consequently, one tactic that the IRA seeks to utilize is the escalation of violence by all means. All members of the terrorist organization are also advised to rely on the support of their fellow operatives at all times. The IRA also aims to ‘kill as many enemy personnel as to possible…through a war of liberation that could last another decade…to the ultimate aim of a Democratic Socialist Republic”3. These pronunciations point that IRA’s tactics are not quickly fixed or expedited in nature. We as the British security agencies should also be prepared for a possible protracted conflict with the IRA.

All IRA operatives are expected to master adequate anti-interrogation techniques that could assist in ensuring that the organization’s secrets are not proliferated. Consequently, the manual contains an overview of the known interrogation and information techniques that are often used by the British organs. The endgame for all IRA operatives who have been arrested is to ensure that they ‘say nothing’ whilst remaining cool, calm, and collected.

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The IRA also seeks to make parts of the United Kingdom ungovernable through a series of insurgencies using means such as bombing campaigns. Furthermore, the organization seeks to punish its enemies (criminals, informers, and collaborators) as a means of ensuring sustenance. A comparison of this recent manual with another one that was discovered in the 1950s indicates that political-centered tactics of the IRA have been overtaken by those that ensure military success.

Resources and Threat Level of the IRA

The Green Book does not make any explicit mention of the exact types of weapons and other resources that are available to the operatives. However, the manual advises new operatives to have the ability to handle explosives and other smaller arms. Specific attention is paid to the handling of detonators. Our government is succeeding in cutting down the supply of arms to IRA.

The IRA’s level of threat can only be described as slightly above medium. The government has been exerting pressure on the terrorist organization but the outfit has been retaliating in equally lethal manner. The biggest asset that the organization has is secrecy and utilizing all possible levels of human intelligence against the group reduces its threat levels by a high factor.

Possible Counterintelligence Measures against the IRA

  • use of high levels of human intelligence will counteract the group’s tendency to take ‘great defensive precautions’; measures can include passive counterintelligence where the British take great care to deny IRA access to its information archives
  • active counterintelligence will ensure that we can learn the tactics and strategies that are used by the IRA secretly, with the view of disrupting their planned activities
  • this manual gives the inclination that IRA is a structured organization and as such the British Intelligence Agency should endeavor to learn these operational structures and any changes to the previously known ones
  • the use of volunteers is a strong operational strategy for IRA but it gives us a great chance of infiltrating the terror organization by having our officers pose as ‘volunteers’
  • the manual reveals that the IRA is ‘respectably aware’ of the British intelligence superiority and as such, our agencies should be in a position to defeat the organization before it catches up with our standards


Army, Irish Republican. The Green Book. Ireland: IRA, 1990.


  1. Irish Republican Army, The Green Book (Ireland: IRA, 1990), 1.
  2. Irish Republican Army, The Green Book (Ireland: IRA, 1990), 2.
  3. Irish Republican Army, The Green Book (Ireland: IRA, 1990), 8.