Republican Voices - Review and Summary
The amount of time editors Kevin Bean and Mark Hayes took to put together Republican Voices
was well spent. This book is a beacon of light at the end of the Provo-ridden literature tunnel. The text is a short compilation of interviews of some of the leading minds of what British lapdogs and Free Staters like the term "dissident" Republicanism.
Those interviewed include Anthony McIntyre, Tommy McKearney, Mickey McMullen, Tommy Gorman, Brendan Hughes and Eamonn McDermott. All of these men were active members of the Provisional IRA and have spent substantial time in British jails for their Republican activities.
Covering subjects of both historical and contemporary topics, the interviewees give a broad-based analysis of the period in which they have lived. The academics give their recollections and opinions of internment, the introduction of the "long war" strategy, the hungerstrikes, the peace process and much more.
Two of the men, Hughes and McKearney, had experience as hungerstrikers during the 1980 protest, both refusing food for fifty-three days. On the 53rd day, with Sean McKenna's health deteriorating, the prisoners agreed to review a shaky deal with the Brits regarding political status. The Brits reneged on their offer and the blanket protest went on.
Their points of view offer valuable insight into the mind of a hungerstriker. They each describe the physical and mental toll the starvation caused them.
All of these men set about in this piece to put into print an alternative view to the current path that the Provisionals are trying to cram down the nationalist population's collective throat. Their reputations within the Republican movement quash any possible type of ulterior motive. They seem to me to be very genuine and many of their thoughts ring true.
The men each give their views on the "transitional" phase Provisional Sinn Fein has been progressing through along with the events and circumstance that helped to bring about the politicisation of the Provisional RM. They incorporate the blanket protests, the hungerstrikes, the TUAS strategy and what they refer to as the "Adams' Plan." They collectively come to the conclusion that the current process is not the way forward. For the most part they agree that PSF's path is one of constitutional nationalism and they are doing nothing but reaffirming the place of the Union and the border.
Asked if their war was worth it, the majority of the activists suggest that while the outcome was not what they fought for, they would do it all over again if need be. Even with their youthful brashness, they believe they were morally justified in fighting the perennial oppressor, Mother Britain. Each one of them expresses great regret for the amount of blood that was shed, but believe that the IRA did what they needed to (speaking in the broad sense of things) out of necessity. They now believe the armed struggle has run its course and that politics are the way forward; just not the politics of PSF. For the most part, these men want to see socialism of some form as the future of Ireland.
Books like this one are key pieces of history. A dissenting view of every major political opinion is needed to genuinely understand the situation. We cannot rely on a solely Provisional perspective of the Troubles and the "peace process" or learning about the true history of the Six Counties will be hopelessly revised.
This is an important piece of literature for anyone looking for another outlook of the issue and future of Republicanism. It is a tangent from the current policies and ideals of Provisional Sinn Fein and should be read by anyone not already under the umbrella of those willing to blindly reinforce the Union with Britain.
Most of these men are still involved with some facet of the Republican movement. Eamonn McDermott now writes for the Derry Journal. Anthony McIntyre is a founding member of the Irish Republican Writers' Group and works with the Ex-Prisoners Assistance Committee. Mickey McMullen is also a member of the IRWG and has written a number of important articles on current Republican strategy. Tommy Gorman works in cross-community initiatives. Tommy McKearney is the editor of the magazine, Fourthwrite and is also a founding member of the IRWG. Brendan Hughes is active in ex-prisoner circles and is currently working on collaborative projects based on the experiences of activists.
Irish Republican Writers Group
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