Performing the Peace Process and Performing the Past in the Irish Republican Commemoration

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

In the years since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, there has been a structural realignment of the Irish republican activist milieu. The agreement delivered the end of armed struggle for the largest republican militant group, the Provisional IRA, and provided the opportunity for the electoral growth of its formerly subordinate political wing, Sinn Féin. The latter has become the dominant gatekeeper of republican identity, defining ideologically important performative rituals, like commemorations. During the period of the Peace Process, these rituals self-consciously eschewed armed and uniformed displays of military force that were central to the propaganda war of the Troubles, such as those of the Hunger Strikes in 1981. New performative rituals of commemoration symbolized the political transformation in Provisional republicanism’s strategy. In terms of typology, rituals such as graveside orations on important commemorative dates, were reimagined to signify not military strength, but political and cultural development, with street theatre taking the place of parading and drilling. However, the peace agreement did not deliver the reunification of Ireland and the end of British rule, which had been the central aims of republican resistance. Dissident groups, who split from the Provisionals as a result of opposition to the Peace Process, have grown in support. Militant groups like the Real IRA (RIRA) have contested the internal cultural hegemony of Sinn Féin by emphasizing paramilitarist traditions at their own commemorations and funerals. By utilizing masked volunteers to deliver graveside orations and employing armed guards to fire gunshots over the coffins of dead members, they have sought to reclaim the ideologically potent performative rituals of the recent past to establish their claims to being the true keepers of republicanism’s ideological soul.

Keywords

Commemorative rituals, dissidents, Irish republicanism, Peace Process, Real IRA, Sinn Fein

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)