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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 5 ‘War is a waste if we don’t win the peace.’1


We want to be reconciled with you. We are concerned that you appreciate our commitment to reconciliation is on the basis of respect for your beliefs, your tradition and your hopes for the future.2

This extract is a good example of Sinn Féin peace discourse; it illustrates a significant shift to a more inclusive form of politics, and specifically addresses unionists. The use of the word ‘we’ is highly symbolic because it represents a major change in republican ideology and implies a readiness to compromise with historic republican enemies. After a long history of war with the British state and a recent history engaged in local sectarian violence, republican peace discourses were a powerful contrast to their traditional warrior talk. The Good Friday Agreement (1998) brought challenges to the historic republican position on physical force because the agreement set out expectations that all parties would decommission their weapons and this included all armed groups irrespective of political affiliation.3

In the previous chapter, a chronological timeline of Sinn Féin colonized discourses was introduced to illustrate how Sinn Féin managed ideological challenges internally and sustained the political support of their grassroots. The term ‘colonized’ discourse was introduced in Chapter Two to illustrate the scale of adaptions made to the core discourses of Irish republicanism. The emergence of Sinn Féin peace discourses represented a significant shift from traditional republican forms of communication. Peace discourses appeared to have more of a therapeutic role that encouraged a...

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