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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 2 To Kill Or Not To Kill?: Hamlet and the PIRA

Extract

1 2.1: The Universal Dilemma He smiled grimly to himself. Concentrate. Don’t let your attention wander. That’s the way to get yourself killed. Maybe that would be better than killing? He was surprised at the suddenness of the thought. He squinted again along the length of the rifle as he considered this question and his response to it. It was a question which had come into his head off and on during the last few months. Not about getting killed. He wasn’t into getting killed. No way. If it happened it wouldn’t be by choice. He surveyed the scene before and below him. Nothing had changed. Was it right to kill? 2 Gerry Adams’s 1996 autobiography, Before the Dawn, contains a short story, a fiction through which Adams attempts ‘to capture [...] something of the harsh reality of the campaign launched by the IRA’.3 The story’s hero (Sean) is an Irish Republican sniper who, lurking in a Belfast attic, contemplates universal as well as ethical issues. To kill or not to kill? To be or not to be? Murder or suicide? These two, very different, questions prompt Sean’s philosophising about morality. ‘Was it right to kill?’, Sean asks.4 He replies thus: No, he told himself, it wasn’t right to kill. But there was no choice. Of course there was a choice. No one forced him to do what he was doing. He could leave 1 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (London: Penguin, 1980). 2 Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn: An Autobiography (London:...

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