This book provides an analysis of the politics, ideology and strategy of ‘dissident’ Irish republicans. Based on the largest survey of ‘dissidents’ to date, it offers unprecedented insight into who the ‘dissidents’ are and what they hope to achieve. The ninety interviewees for this book comprise members of ‘dissident’ groups, independents, elected representatives, current prisoners in Maghaberry prison, former senior members of the Provisional Movement and individuals who were active in the Republican Movement prior to the formation of the Provisionals in 1969. This book provides insight into the Provisional–‘dissident’ divide regarding tactics-versus-principles, a debate which strikes to the heart of republicanism. Uniquely, through interviews with key players, this book presents the mainstream Sinn Féin narrative, thus providing an insight into the contested narratives of these two worlds which encompass former comrades. This book locates ‘dissident’ republicanism historically, within the long trajectory of republican struggle, and demonstrates the cyclical nature of key debates within the republican leadership. Personal testimonies of key players demonstrate a nuanced spectrum of opinion on the current armed campaign regarding utility and morality; and republican views are presented on whether or not there should be any republican prisoners at present. Through unique interviews with a spokespersons for the Continuity and REAL IRAs, this book delves into the psyche of those involved in the armed campaign. Key themes explored throughout the book include the drawling of the fault lines, the varied strands of ‘dissidence’, ceasefires and decommissioning, the Good Friday Agreement, policing, ‘IRA policing’, legitimacy and mandates.
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.
Motivations and aspirations: the drawing of the fault lines
This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of who the ‘dissidents’ are and what motivates them. The chapter details personal testimonies of a wide spectrum of radical republican activists, including members of organisations, independents and individuals who were active in the Republican Movement prior to the formation of the Provisionals in 1969. This chapter details interviewees’ locations, occupations and family backgrounds, including the significance of family tradition on political activism. The fault lines of modern ‘dissident’ republicanism can be traced to the 1970s; therefore this chapter reveals testimonies of individuals who were active in the Provisional Movement during that period and provides an insight into the formation of RSF through unprecedented interviews with individuals who followed Ruairí Ó’Brádaigh out of the 1986 Ard Fheis to reassemble as RSF. Further, the chapter examines the ‘holy grail’ of republicanism – the Hunger Strikes – and examines Richard O’Rawe’s arguments which have permeated throughout the radical republican narrative. While ideological breaking points have been significant, this chapter details the significance of resentment and perceptions of betrayal towards the Sinn Féin leadership. Through personal testimonies, this chapter provides an unprecedented insight into the motivations of individuals who stayed with the Provisionals through major ideological shifts to then depart more recently.
This chapter provides an analysis of the divided nature of radical republicanism and details the irreconcilable ideological and tactical differences between groups which prevent formal unity. Through personal testimonies from founding members, this chapter explores what motivated individuals to form new groups, including the 32CSM, RSM, RNU, éirigí, 1916 Societies and, most recently, Saoradh. It further notes the emergence of a large body of ‘independents’ within ‘dissident’ republicanism. The chapter provides an analysis of the ‘Limerick group’ which broke from RSF in 2009; events surrounding which highlight issues of central importance including legitimacy, identity, calls for a broad front and groups ‘parroting’ other groups. Republicans collectively assert the right to sovereignty; however, fundamental division exists regarding how sovereignty should be exercised. Arguably, engagement with the state is unavoidable; however, the central point of contention within republicanism regards at what point engagement is viewed as ‘sell-out’. Tactical diversity exists within groups, as demonstrated at the 2014 RSF Ard Fheis. Through unprecedented interviews with prisoners in Maghaberry, this chapter highlights the identity struggle which has played out in the prison and which is reflective of wider tensions between groups. Finally, this chapter provides unique insight into relations between the Provisional and ‘dissident’ worlds.
Competing narratives regarding ‘justification’ for the Provisional IRA campaign strike to the heart of the Provisional–‘dissident’ divide. Radical republicans have largely rejected structural conditions as a motivating factor for the emergence of the campaign in 1969. This chapter details unprecedented interviews with former members of the Provisional Movement who reject the mainstream narrative and assert that their primary motivation was the pursuit of self-determination. Radical republicans reject any conflation of a civil rights agenda with ideological commitment to self-determination. This chapter illustrates how views on the motivation of the PIRA are directly related to the justification (or lack of) for a current armed campaign. Radical republicans have rejected the manner in which the ceasefires came about and have propagated a belief that the Provisional leadership were deliberately winding down the campaign. The radical republican world contains a wide spectrum of views on armed struggle, including individuals who remained with the Provisionals until the recent period (post-1998), whose views on armed struggle may be closer to the Provisional analysis. Finally, this chapter analyses why IRA decommissioning was ‘the choke’ for republicans, who have argued that decommissioning attempted to negate the historic right to armed struggle; and presents analysis from a CIRA spokesperson.
This chapter details the most significant ideological shift undertaken by the Provisional Movement since 1986, namely acceptance of the consent principle; an issue which many radical republicans deem more fundamental than the IRA ceasefires. This chapter details radical republican attitudes to the GFA and cites interviewees’ arguments in opposition. The chapter explores how radical republicans conceptualise the issue of democratic mandate while asserting traditional republican principles. Repertoires of repression are explored, which have proven central to the radical republican message in the post-GFA period. This chapter demonstrates how radical republicans view their stance and actions as compatible with democratic principles and human rights, rooted in the perceived illegitimacy of the partitionist institutions, and have emphasised the human right to hold a political opinion. This chapter also examines how radical republicans navigate the system while asserting that engagement with partitionist institutions serves to legitimise them. Interviewees highlight the contested narrative regarding the point at which engagement with the system becomes ‘sell-out’. This chapter emphasises republican rejection of the normalisation agenda and highlights the interface at which radical republicans encounter the state (mainly protests and marches), thus providing insight into how radical republicans view their position within Northern Ireland.
This chapter examines the heterogeneous range of views within radical republicanism on armed struggle in present conditions, ranging from outright support to condemnation. The chapter details unprecedented interviews with prominent ‘dissident’ republicans, including individuals who were formerly active in the Provisional Movement (some at a senior operational level). Interviewees include individuals (mainly independents) who justify the Provisional IRA campaign but condemn the current campaign by groups such as the Continuity IRA, the REAL IRA, the New IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann. This chapter locates the current campaign within the long trajectory of republican armed struggle and highlights the reoccurrence of questions around the utility and morality of armed struggle. The chapter examines the current campaign in the context of Just War Theory and analyses where mandate and legitimacy come from, in the absence of popular support. This chapter presents the views of a member of the leadership of the 32CSM, as well as a spokesperson for the Continuity IRA, regarding what would be sufficient to produce a ceasefire and what constitutes a legitimate target. The chapter presents the views of prominent ‘dissidents’ on whether there should be any republican prisoners at present and details interviews with current prisoners in Maghaberry.
The issue of policing provides an insight into the contested narratives between the mainstream and ‘dissident’ worlds regarding normalisation of Northern Ireland. This chapter examines attempts by Sinn Féin to keep its base united around accepting the legitimacy of the PSNI, placing an emphasis on its changed stance as tactical. The chapter provides an unprecedented insight into a Sinn Féin public meeting on policing which took place in Clonard Monastery in West Belfast. Radical republicans reject the significance of the change from the RUC to the PSNI and reject any reformed police force on a six-county basis. Such rejection is deeply rooted in ideology, tradition and symbolism. Radical republican discourse is largely dominated by references to negative interaction with the police. Through primary interviews, this chapter examines discourse around the legacy of the RUC and claims of collusion and mistrust. For groups such as RSF, the 32CSM, Saoradh and éirígí, protests against the PSNI form a significant element of the organisations’ visibility within the North. Finally, this chapter examines ‘community policing’ undertaken by the CIRA, the REAL IRA, the New IRA and OHN, and provides an insight into the nuanced spectrum of opinion within the republican world regarding republican policing.
Throughout Irish history terminology has played a significant role in defining those who fall beyond the status quo. This chapter demonstrates that the concept of legitimacy (and where it derives from) has remained a dominant theme throughout Irish republicanism, as demonstrated during the Civil War (1920s), the Hunger Strikes (1980s) and throughout the contemporary Provisional–‘dissident’ divide. This chapter examines the Republican Movement’s engagement with elections and demonstrates that Sinn Féin’s relationship with elections is more nuanced than is often portrayed. Radical republicans have rejected the mainstream narrative that Sinn Féin holds the republican brand and have rejected the Sinn Féin electoral mandate. This chapter explores ‘dissident’ attitudes to elections and explores the electoral fortunes of ‘dissident’ candidates. Through primary interviews, this chapter explores why many candidates have chosen to contest on an ‘independent’ platform rather than under their organisation’s name; and whether groups such as the 32CSM are internally divided on electoral strategy. Debates within RSF, éirígí and the 32CSM demonstrate age-old divisions surrounding the tactical use of local elections. This chapter examines republican attitudes to the lack of popular support and (through their own words) demonstrates where legitimacy is derived from, including an interview with a spokesperson for the CIRA.