Introduction
in Unfinished business
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This introduction outlines the vast and bitter gulf which has developed and become entrenched between the Provisional and so-called ‘dissident’ worlds. It locates ‘dissident’ republicanism within the long trajectory of Irish republicanism, stressing ideological continuity, a ‘living link’ through the people involved and the cyclical nature of debate at significant historic junctures. Radical republicans have rejected the term ‘dissident’. An examination of contested language and terminology contributes to our understanding of the nature and politics of the radical republican world. The ideology and message articulated by radical republicans today are the same as those articulated by the Provisional Movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Sinn Féin has transformed into a constitutional party which has given its allegiance to the institutions of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin’s message has shifted from one which emphasised freedom to one which emphasises equality. In contrast, the radical republican base rejects the significance of altered structural conditions within Northern Ireland; thus forms the heart of the Provisional–‘dissident’ divide. Debate surrounding what constitutes a ‘principle’ versus ‘tactic’ has struck to the heart of what it means to be a republican – both between the Provisional and ‘radical republican’ worlds and within the radical republican base.

Unfinished business

The politics of ‘dissident’ Irish republicanism

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