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The politics of ‘dissident’ Irish republicanism

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.

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contested narrative regarding prisoners; non-mainstream republicans have developed a discourse which suggests that prisoners were ‘used’ at various points to convince the general membership of the movement to accept a fundamental change in position. The late Gerry McKerr, who was a prominent member of the Provisional Movement in Lurgan, has recalled an incident from 1986 when he attended a football match in Davitt Park: When a guy came in and said, I knew who he was, I had an idea why he was there and he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered ‘Are

in Unfinished business
Motivations and aspirations: the drawing of the fault lines

’. 3 Through identifying ‘common processes’ this chapter will illustrate the significance of the following on the development of radical republicanism: family background; ideological changes in the mainstream Provisional Movement; a sense of betrayal by the mainstream Provisional leadership; and belief in the continuity of the struggle. 4 Within the mainstream narrative, republican ‘dissidents’ have been described as ‘former Provisionals who can’t let go’, spoiler groups, 5 vigilantes and criminals, 6 micro-groups, 7 ‘traitors to Ireland’ 8

in Unfinished business

regarding the relationship between the political and the military; in the post-ceasefire context the military side was relegated beneath the political (a significant reversal of traditional positions). 1 At 6pm on 9 February 1996 the PIRA ended its cessation of activities. The Provisional Movement viewed the Conservative government under the leadership of John Major as acting with hostility towards the peace process, rather than demonstrating genuine engagement in a bid to make progress. Despite this, the wider movement continued its communication

in Unfinished business

in arms at a future time. Interviews conducted with members of armed organisations reveal an insight into the motivations and aims of those continuing armed activity, as well as their views on the morality of armed actions and where they take legitimacy from. Interviews were also conducted with prominent radical republicans outside armed groups who have provided their views on the armed campaign; including individuals who were formerly active in the Provisional Movement (some of whom were at a senior operational level). It is relevant to examine the position of

in Unfinished business
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the same message at the same gravesides as they did as members of the Provisional Movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus radical republicans such as Hannaway and Catney have asserted the continuity of their republicanism and have emphasised that it is ‘Provisional Sinn Féin’ which has altered its message and thus ‘dissented’. Sinn Féin as an organisation has transformed into a constitutional party which at times is required to reconcile its present identity with its past, as was demonstrated in May 2017 when the Northern leader of Sinn Féin (and

in Unfinished business

. Tomas Ó Curraoin, Republican Sinn Féin Councillor, interview with the author, Galway, 4 June 2013 Introduction The most significant ideological shift undertaken by the Provisional Movement since 1986 was acceptance of the consent principle. Set against a backdrop of Peter Brooke’s speech (which asserted Britain’s neutrality in relation to Ireland) the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams engaged in a dialogue with the SDLP leader John Hume. The dialogue provides an important insight into the thinking of Sinn

in Unfinished business
Irish republican media activism since the Good Friday Agreement

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.

Ideology and disunity

, former Fianna Fáil, IRSP or INLA, and individuals who have never been a member of any organisation. They also comprise individuals who were active in republicanism prior to the formation of the Provisional Movement in 1969 (see ‘Introduction’ for a list of pre-1969 interviewees). Failure to contextualise radical republicanism within this pre-1969 mould will limit understanding of such groups and individuals. As demonstrated by Robert W. White, individuals who were active in the Republican Movement prior to 1969 predominantly come from families which are deep-rooted in

in Unfinished business
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key to exposing the arms imports facilitated by Fianna Fáil Ministers. It is interesting also that the leftist tendency within the Provisional movement in the 1980s was the one which, despite its rhetoric, compromised on the key traditionalist republican values, laying the basis for the current settlement in Northern Ireland. That is an observation not a moral judgement and indeed it could be argued that any revolutionary movement which seeks popular support on the basis of electoral and parliamentary participation is inevitably going to be drawn into acceptance of

in The IRA 1956–69