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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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Chapter 1: ‘The Usual Suspects’: Demonic Representations of the PIRA


25 Chapter 1 ‘The Usual Suspects’: Demonic Representations of the PIRA 1.1: Signs of Evil The Celts! Ha! Very fashionable, the Celts, with the arty-crafty. Ley lines. Druids. But show them the real thing – an Irishman with a gun, or under a blanket in an H-block and they run a mile.1 In Howard Brenton’s 1982 play, The Romans in Britain, a British army officer named Chichester suggests that, for the British subject, ‘the real thing’ is a dangerously phallic demon. At a literal level, this demon is ‘an Irishman with a gun’. Whereas, at a metaphorical level, this demon is an Irishman ‘under a blanket’ with a big penis.2 For Chichester, Irishmen are ‘all murdering bastards’ and ‘the hardest men’.3 This sentiment is echoed within novels where the PIRA are ‘wicked bastards’,4 ‘evil bastards’5 and dangerously phallic ‘hard bastards’.6 So, contradicting Irish author Jack Holland’s fictive ‘editor of the New York Globe’, ‘the Irish thing is [not] dead’ but very much alive within metonymic constructs of the PIRA.7 These metonymic constructs often deploy a type of psychopathology which diagnoses the PIRA as being ‘mentally deranged people’.8 But this psychopath- ology only serves as a smoke screen for the real traumatic events 1 Howard Brenton, The Romans in Britain (London: Methuen, 1982), p.75. 2 Ibid., p.76. 3 Ibid., pp.75, 76. 4 Gerald Seymour, The Journeyman Tailor (London: Harper Collins, 1995), p.306. 5 Gavin Esler, Loyalties (London: Headline, 1990), p.22. 6 Gerald Seymour, Harry’s Game (London: Harper Collins, 1975), p.49. 7...

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