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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 6 ‘A greyhound trained to race’1


The IRA’s decision to call a ‘complete cessation of military operations’ was built on the work of Sinn Féin, John Hume, Albert Reynolds and Irish America and developed in an inclusively based political initiative.2

In the 1990s, IRA cessations of their military operations reflected an acknowledgement by provisional republicans that armed struggle would not drive the British state out of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin’s engagement in a more inclusive style of politics with nationalists resulted in the Downing Street Declaration (1993) and the entry of republicans into peace talks in 1997.3 A permanent IRA cessation, which came into force from 19 July1997, brought further evidence that Sinn Féin has persuaded a significant number of external stakeholders that republicans were serious about bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Internal opposition, from within the republican movement, exposed the level of concern at the scale of compromises made by the Sinn Féin negotiating team at the Mitchell talks. In retrospect, republican concerns were ideologically reasonable; when the conditions of the Good Friday Agreement were made public republicans found themselves committed to the principle of consent,4 and an expectation of IRA decommissioning.

In the previous chapter, Sinn Féin’s transitional and transformational discourses were briefly introduced to illustrate how the leadership managed the complex politics of brokering IRA cessations, representing republican political interests and managing internal opposition. At the time, IRA decommissioning represented a major challenge for republican, volunteers, prisoners and veterans. After years of military...

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