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.
individuals who have asserted the legitimacy of the Provisional campaign while simultaneously rejecting the legitimacy of the armed campaign conducted by groups such as the Continuity and REAL IRAs.
Location of the current campaign by radical groups (ContinuityIRA, REAL IRA, ONH, New IRA) within the long trajectory of republican armed struggle demonstrates the cyclical nature of armed republicanism and highlights the reoccurrence of significant questions around utility and morality. It is useful to provide an examination of the current use of
However, armed groups are still in evidence in Northern Ireland. From
April 2011 to March 2012 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded
67 shootings and 56 bombings related to the security situation.4 From 2005,
when the Provisional IRA ‘went away’ until March 2012 there was a total
of 528 shootings and 375 bombings, the vast bulk perpetrated by republican dissidents.5 Militant republican groups that continue to
legitimacy of armed struggle such as Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH), ContinuityIRA (CIRA) and Real IRA (RIRA
Abstentionism and the growth
of internal divisions
For traditionalist republicans, the refusal to recognise the parliaments in
Leinster House and Stormont symbolised their allegiance to the de jure
Republic which they claimed had been illegally overthrown in 1922. For them
it still had legitimacy with legal authority having been passed to the IRA Army
Council in 1938 by the surviving anti-Treaty Sinn Féin members of the Dáil
elected in 1923. Traditionalists, as represented today by Republican Sinn Féin
and the ContinuityIRA, still adhere to that belief.
Newspapers, magazines and pamphlets have always been central, almost sacred, forms of communication within Irish republican political culture. While social media is becoming the primary ideological battleground in many democracies, Irish republicanism steadfastly expresses itself in the traditional forms of activist journalism. Shinners, Dissos and Dissenters is a long-term analysis of the development of Irish republican activist media since 1998 and the tumultuous years following the end of the Troubles. It is the first in-depth analysis of the newspapers, magazines and online spaces in which the differing strands of Irish republicanism developed and were articulated during a period where schism and dissent defined a return to violence. Based on an analysis of Irish republican media outlets as well as interviews with the key activists that produced them, this book provides a compelling long-term snapshot of a political ideology in transition. It reveals how Irish Republicanism was moulded by the twin forces of the Northern Ireland Peace Process and the violent internal ideological schism that threatened a return to the ‘bad old days’ of the Troubles. This book is vital for those studying Irish politics and those interestedin activism as it provides new insights into the role that modern activist media forms have played in the ideological development of a 200-year-old political tradition.
The mainstream narrative on so-called ‘dissident’ republicanism has emphasised the divided and heterogeneous nature of radical republicanism. References are frequently made to the number of republican groups which exist: RSF, 32CSM, RNU, RSM, IRSP, éirígí, ContinuityIRA, REAL IRA and the New IRA, among others (as well as a significant body of independents). This chapter provides an analysis of the divided nature of radical republicanism and focuses on the irreconcilable ideological and tactical differences between groups, which hinders any
is therefore somewhat hollow in a description, a term lacking
in substance and explanation.13 As demonstrated in figure 1 the term dissident
is also used to incorporate those groups who have, at different times, splintered
from the Provisional movement and those who have been formed since the end
Sinn Féin / IRA
legitimacy on and gained a wider public audience for the unreconstructed
republican view of both Irish states based on rejectionism and armed struggle.
However, the Provisionals themselves evolved away from that unyielding view,
and, just as within the modernist faction, a more pragmatic policy came to
dominate their politics and the traditionalist element again split away to form
Republican Sinn Féin and the ContinuityIRA in 1986.
While most observers regard the Provisionals as representing a radical
break from the politics of the civil rights
views regarding the formation of the organisation. Consequently, the radical republican world contains a wide spectrum of views on the current use of armed actions. There are notable examples of individuals who stayed within the Provisional Movement throughout the ceasefires only to depart during the latter period (post-1998); therefore it is unsurprising that their views on armed struggle may be closer to the narrative presented by the Provisionals than to current armed groups such as the ContinuityIRA, REAL IRA, New IRA or ONH. Anthony McIntyre, who departed from
ContinuityIRA spokesperson, interview with the author, North Armagh, 2014
The issue of policing provides an insight into the contested narratives between the mainstream and radical republican arenas regarding the normalisation of the state of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin engaged in attempts to keep its base united on this issue; the party emphasised its changed stance as ‘tactical’ in a post-Patten context. In contrast, radical republicans have rejected the significance of the change from the