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Demons, Hamlets and Femmes Fatales

Representations of Irish Republicanism in Popular Fiction

Jayne Steel

The book provides a lively discussion of the ways in which popular fiction appropriates the figure of the Provisional IRA activist and the political conflict within the north of Ireland. It looks at how authors’ recreations, or transformations, of Irish republicanism might reveal self-referentional images that are, ultimately, a product of national identity and/or gender identity. An important focus of the book interrogates British fascination and fixation with the Provisional IRA and its ‘terrors’.
The many novels discussed in this study include Gerald Seymour Harry’s Game; Campbell Armstrong Jig; Bernard MacLaverty Cal; Mary Costello Titanic Town; Jennifer Johnston Shadows on our Skin; Deidre Madden One by One through the Darkness.


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If God invented whiskey to prevent the Irish from ruling the world, then who invented Ireland?1 Commencing in 1968, for over thirty years, complex political issues fuelled Irish paramilitary activity within the north of Ireland. While it is impossible to debate and explore all these issues, the following brief overview provides an historical context for the main focus of my study. This focus concerns British and Irish, male and female, repre- sentations of the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and the ‘Troubles’ within, predominantly, popular fiction but also, where relevant, film and the media. The north of Ireland and 1968 supplied the political environment for the birth of the PIRA and rebirth of violent political conflict. At a global level, since the 1960s, people had already been protesting over, for example, Vietnam, Chile and Black civil rights.2 In 1968, ‘the civil rights movement [within the north of Ireland] marked the transition from a period of peace to a renewal of [...] an unresolved conflict’.3 This conflict was euphemistically termed the Troubles. Tracing the inception of the civil rights movement within the north of Ireland, which included Protestant as well as Catholic student voices, Tim Pat Coogan writes that ‘on 24 August 1968 [...] four thousand people took part in a march [...] from Coalisland to Dun- gannon’.4 The march was in protest over inequalities suffered by the Catholic majority in terms of the electoral system, housing, employ- 1 Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), p.1. 2...

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