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Warrior Talk

A study of war, peace and politics

Sally Watson

«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.

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Chapter 2 Decoding political discourses


Changes in republicanism are rarely conducted in public.1

Political discourses have many roles and it is essential that a robust study looks beyond the surface level for the deeper meaning of the symbolic language being used. In the previous chapter, an international case study of a peace process was introduced as a source of learning about the discourses of war and peace and specifically the part played by warrior talk. In this study of republican discourses during the period 1969–2019, the Good Friday Agreement (1998) represents an event that saw a major expansion of Sinn Féin’s peace discourses using language such as reconciliation, forgiveness, cultural change and transformation.

Despite the proliferation of peace discourses, warrior talk has remained in Sinn Féin’s repertoire of political speeches and it still occurs in the present day. The role of warrior talk has evolved over time and is disseminated in different ways and a variety of contexts. Warrior talk can be a powerful catalyst in a conflict situation because it presents the situation through clearly defined positions and encourages stakeholders to take sides psychologically and, at times, physically. The outcome is an increased polarization of views and a decreased appreciation of the complexity and history of the conflict.

The rhetoric of war and the rhetoric of peace draw us into creating rigid mental models and norms, which then shape our behaviours and allegiances. We rally around emblems and flags and find ourselves fiercely defending our...

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