Belfast Telegraph

Not every dissident will support another campaign: author

Dr Marisa McGlinchey
Dr Marisa McGlinchey
Dr Marisa McGlinchey's book Unfinished Business
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Many dissident republicans will not support the New IRA bomb attack in Londonderry, an academic has claimed.

Dr Marisa McGlinchey, who has spent five years researching the groups for a new book, said she was surprised at how many of her interviewees currently opposed an armed campaign.

She said: "They'd probably say they don't condemn it, but they'll not necessarily support it either.

"The huge take-home message was this rejection that a current campaign in current circumstances was feasible or should happen."

Ms McGlinchey, who is assistant professor at Coventry university, said that many of them rejected use of the word "dissident".

She said: "Firstly, there's the living link; a lot of the people I interviewed were involved in the Provisionals campaign or even before that.

"Secondly, a lot of them reject the term dissident because they would say they're doing what they've always done and they would argue that Sinn Fein have changed their path by becoming a constitutionally nationalist party."

The 34-year-old's book - titled Unfinished Business: the Politics of 'Dissident' Irish Republicanism, is to be launched next month. Describing her research, Ms McGlinchey said "a few gatekeepers" helped her access what was "a really difficult-to-reach closed community".

"I randomly approached others and I also went along to republican events, commemorations and seminars and I introduced myself to people," she said.

Her aim was "to get to the actual psyche of what people call dissident republicanism" which she said "involved going to houses all over Ireland". "I also went into Magheraberry Prison - some prisoners' families gave up their visits for me to go in, which was really remarkable," she said.

"I also interviewed a couple of spokespeople for the Continuity IRA in north Armagh which was much more tricky one and took about four years. I'm not sure any other academic has done that."

She said her preoccupation with Irish politics was anchored in an upbringing in her native west Belfast, which she described as "a hotbed of activity".

Ms McGlinchey said: "Members of my family were in the SDLP - although they were quite private about it - but on a personal basis I was always exposed to political talk in the house.

"My specific interest in what is termed dissident republicanism probably stems from the fact that Gerry Adams comes from just down the road and when he came into the area he was treated as a god almost.

"It really interested me then in later years to see first hand the divisions between him and former comrades of his."

Ms McGlinchey said she witnessed these tensions at first hand during a meeting in Clonard Monastery when Sinn Fein told people to support the PSNI.

"I attended Clonard in person and I saw outbursts from people who would now be termed dissidents...and I think that's the one that really grew the passion in me, " she said. "I remember going there on my own to see what was happening and it was packed.

"Some people were shouting things like 'traitor!' from the back of the church.

"I heard one woman muttering 'My son didn't die for this' on the way out the back door and it struck me how bitter this division was."

She added: "I've really been struck by the bitter gulf between former comrades, and even within families, who are divided within the Provisional Sinn Fein line and what is termed dissident republicanism."

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