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Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory

Transitions and Transformations


Edited By Marguerite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack and Ruud van den Beuken

Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory presents the latest research from Irish studies scholars across a variety of disciplines, including history, literature, theatre, photography and folklore, and generates new and challenging insights into the dynamics of cultural remembrance in Irish society. Featuring contributions by leading researchers in the field such as Guy Beiner, Graham Dawson and Emilie Pine, this collection demonstrates how the examination of Irish cultural legacies can illuminate our understanding of processes of identity formation, heritage policies, canonization, musealization and the transgenerational and transcultural inflections of the past. Investigating topics such as trauma, contested politics and commemorative practices, and exploring recent theoretical developments, the volume offers an interdisciplinary overview of the recent cross-fertilization between memory studies and Irish studies.
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7 The Irish Republican Movement and the Contested Past: ‘Official Memory’ and the Politics of Dissent (Stephen Hopkins)


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7 The Irish Republican Movement and the Contested Past: ‘Official Memory’ and the Politics of Dissent

This chapter will analyse the politics of contested memory in relation to the recent post-Good Friday Agreement (GFA) trajectory of the Irish Provisional Republican movement, consisting of Sinn Féin (SF) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). This will involve an examination of attitudes to critical aspects of the movement’s past, as exhibited by a range of emblematic individuals in leadership positions within the mainstream movement, including SF’s President, Gerry Adams, and Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. It will be argued that a self-perpetuating leadership group based around Adams and McGuinness has effectively sought to construct what Elizabeth Jelin has termed an ‘official memory’ or a ‘master narrative’ for the movement.1 This analysis will also examine the efforts to challenge this ‘official memory’ from within the milieu of so-called ‘dissident’ republicanism. A small but growing number of prominent ex-Provisionals (such as Anthony McIntyre,2 Brendan Hughes,3 ← 149 | 150 → Richard O’Rawe4 and Tommy McKearney5) have challenged the leadership’s account of the past, particularly with regard to crucial events such as the 1980–1981 hunger strikes. It is also the case that some relatively obscure former foot-soldiers, such as Gerry Bradley6 and Eamonn Collins,7 have also engaged in memoir-writing that is profoundly critical of the leadership’s version of the past.

The chapter will utilize a range of sources, including newspapers, party...

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