Warrior Talk

A study of war, peace and politics

by Sally Watson (Author)
©2021 Monographs XX, 248 Pages


«Warrior talk is defined as language, terms and metaphors associated with war and violence used in political discourses or appropriated into everyday settings to influence people and situations.»
Warrior Talk is part of the human experience in conflict situations at global, national and organizational levels and while the scale of conflict may vary, the language of war is a potent dynamic and key inhibitor of sustainable peace. A case study of the Northern Ireland peace process has been used as a background for research into Sinn Féin political discourses in the period 1969-2019. The findings indicate that republican warrior talk has evolved over five decades but continues to play a role in Sinn Féin politics. The implications of this research are applicable to other forms of conflict and particularly whether there has been protracted or intermittent episodes of violence.
This book will appeal to a varied audience: students, researchers and readers interested in peace building whether international or local. The style of the book will demystify the field of political discourse analysis and provide tools and resources to enrich the reader’s experience.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations, key political actors and terms
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1 An introduction to warrior talk
  • Chapter 2 Decoding political discourses
  • Chapter 3 The Republican Code
  • Chapter 4 The political journey of Sinn Féin
  • Chapter 5 ‘War is a waste if we don’t win the peace.’1
  • Chapter 6 ‘A greyhound trained to race’1
  • Chapter 7 Transformational discourses and warrior talk
  • Chapter 8 Warrior talk and peace
  • Internet sources
  • Newspapers
  • Journals
  • Bibliography
  • Index

←viii | ix→

Abbreviations, key political actors and terms



African National Congress and the main political force opposing Apartheid in South Africa.


Continuity Army Council.


Continuity IRA, formed in 1986 and shares an ideology with Republican Sinn Féin.


Combined Loyalist Military Command grouping of loyalist paramilitaries including UVF, UFF, UDA and Red Hand Commandos.


Downing Street Declaration.


Democratic Unionist Party, formed by Ian Paisley.


Irish National Liberation Army formed 1974 known as the military wing of the Irish republican socialist party and involved in republican hunger strikes in 1981.


Irish Republican Brotherhood, predecessors of the IRA.

New IRA:

A merger of RAAD, Real IRA and republicans operating independently.


Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.


Northern Ireland Women’s coalition.


Official Irish Republican Army, a republican paramilitary organization reluctant to get involved in the violence in Northern Ireland in 1969. Their politics was far left and focussed on uniting the six counties with the thirty-two counties into a republic with a federal structure of government.


Óglaigh na hÉireann is a term used OIRA, PIRA and now various republican groups. It means ‘Soldiers of Ireland’.


Provisional Irish Republican Army founded in 1969 and disbanded 2005.


Provisional Sinn Féin.←ix | x→


Police Service of Northern Ireland.


Republican Action Against Drugs.

Real IRA:

republican armed group formed in 1997

Real UFF:

Real Ulster Freedom Fighters founded in 2007 by ex UDA and UFF members.

Red Hand Commandos a loyalist paramilitary group whose aim is to keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. They are historic enemies of the IRA but disarmed in 2009.


Republican Network for Unity formed 2007.


Republican Sinn Féin formed in 1986 in protest at the political strategies of Provisional Sinn Féin, which were deemed to be counter to Irish republican principles.


Royal Ulster Constabulary and replaced by PSNI in 2001.


Social Democratic Labour Party.


Ulster Defence Association, an Ulster Loyalist defence organization, formed in 1971 and key participant of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, ended armed campaign, 2007.


Ulster Defence Regiment. An infantry regiment of the British Army, 1970–1992.


Ulster Freedom Fighters, a paramilitary group formed by more militant members of the UDA.


Ulster Unionist Party, dominant unionist party that governed Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1972. Unlike Sinn Féin, unionist MP’s taken their seats in the Westminster parliament in London.


Ulster Volunteer Force, a loyalist paramilitary organization formed in 1966 and active throughout the ‘Troubles’.

←xvi | xvii→


In 1998, I was awarded a Masters in Peace Studies by the Richardson Institute, at Lancaster University, the oldest peace and conflict research centre in the UK. I researched the Oslo Accords (1990/1991) and was fascinated by the work of Norwegian facilitators in brokering a peace settlement in the Middle East. I was intrigued by the behaviours of German and British soldiers on Christmas Day 1914 (the Christmas Day Truce) and decided to study this phenomenon in greater detail. During the year of study, my interests in the dynamics of global war and peace grew until a chance remark stopped me in my tracks. One of my fellow students from Sri Lanka asked me about the conflict in Northern Ireland. In that moment, I suddenly realized the magnitude of events in a part of the world, 188 nautical miles from Lancaster. A moment in time that changed my thinking, my career path and me.

My Masters dissertation was focussed on the Good Friday Agreement and a study of the unionist, nationalist and republican discourses generated during 1997–1998. In 2002, I published a PhD on Sinn Fein political transformation from 1969 to 2002 and developed a discourse model to support further research into republican discourses. Between 2003 and 2019, the research work continued and the content of each book chapter is supported by extracts from the material collated during those years. The focus on republican discourses was a deliberate choice to ensure a sound basis for the analysis of warrior talk. The timeline of republican discourses allowed me to concentrate on observable patterns and themes and look more closely at both the surface rhetoric and deeper meaning.

The warrior talk of all parties to conflict is a critical component of a sustainable peace process and the source of material for facilitators and mediators in conflict resolution. My commentary on warrior talk in other settings is based on a long career in conflict resolution in the private and public sectors and more recently with not for profit organizations.←xvii | xviii→

My writing intention was to create a book about warrior talk that was easy to read, with a balance of theory and practice, and the opportunity for the reader to apply their learning in a practical way. This aspiration resulted in chapters designed to integrate theory and practice combined with opportunities for practical application and further reading. Readers may have different learning preferences and interests and therefore each chapter presents a range of options on how the material can be studied.

The book has been written for a varied audience of readers. Some of you may be interested in Northern Ireland or Irish republican history and its impact on current Northern Ireland politics.

For readers intrigued by discourse analysis, there is chapter on research methodology with practical tools and exercises for you to test out. For those readers primarily interested in peace studies and conflict resolution, the case study acts as a practical context for your learning and deeper understanding of the cycles of violence and retaliation that can emerge in a lengthy conflict.

Finally, there is a commentary, at the close of the book, on the forms of warrior talk in our everyday lives and while this is short, I hope it will leave you thoughtful about how language impacts your thinking and actions, and how warrior talk impacts your communities and the wider world.

Dr Sally E Watson

Lancaster, UK

←xviii | xix→


I would like to personally thank my family, friends and colleagues for the support given to me during the writing of this book, the team at Kentmere Book Services, Tony Mason and the staff at Peter Lang.

A special thank you to my nephew Greg, a timely conversation in a coffee shop showed me how important it was to make this book a practical read.

←xx | 1→

Chapter 1

An introduction to warrior talk


We are always writing the history of war, even when we are writing the history of peace.1

The focus of this book is the enduring nature of warrior talk, its role in political discourses and impact on human relationships. Warrior talk is a fundamental part of our human existence and exists in many forms of communication between individuals, groups and nations. On a global level, it is perplexing that so few modern conflicts have been resolved and sadly many continue to display a disturbing level of direct physical violence.2 There is very rarely a neat symmetrical outcome that is sustainable despite the rhetoric of peace talks and the high-profile events where peace agreements are signed. This study of warrior talk will help to illuminate why some conflicts remain in perpetual cycles of violence and retaliation. The roots and causes of conflict are communicated through stories, metaphors and symbolic language: this process serves to trap conflicting parties in past grievances. A peace process represents an imagined future and is therefore unknown whereas the past is well known, albeit often contested.

The language of war may have a role to play in obstructing the progress of peace negotiations, but the language of peace is equally problematic because it brings with it an expectation that there will need to be a compromise in positions and interests. In practice, a peace process can be challenging to initiate and sustain, and it frequently moves through phases of ‘process fatigue’.3 A major stumbling block to sustainable peace is the trust that is needed between all the stakeholders, and this includes the conflicting ←1 | 2→parties, politicians, grassroots communities, armed groups, negotiators and facilitators.4 In this context, warrior talk can be a potent communication tool with a positive influence that can be used to force an endgame within a peace negotiation, but there is always the risk of destroying trust.


XX, 248
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XX, 248 pp.

Biographical notes

Sally Watson (Author)

Sally Watson had an extensive career in developing organizations and their leaders within private, public and not for profit settings prior to joining Lancaster University Management School in 1998. Consulting work included facilitation and conflict resolution with senior executive teams and boards of national and international organizations. This experience adapted well to the style of executive education programmes at Lancaster University and an opportunity arose to gain a PhD with the Richardson Institute for Peace. The combination of practical experience in conflict resolution, academic rigour and expertise in learning design is manifested in the style and content of this book. The reader is centre stage in this book with a variety of choice of how to engage with warrior talk. The author is currently a visiting Professorial Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and continues to work in conflict resolution from both theoretical and practical perspectives.


Title: Warrior Talk
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270 pages