The IRA are not Al Qaeda: New Terrorism Discourse and Irish Republicanism

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

While (significantly), its origin pre-dates the 9/11 attacks of 2001, since then the term ‘new terrorism’ has gained wide currency to describe what is seen as a massive shift in the scale, scope, nature, purpose and cause of non-state political violence in various parts of the world (Burnett & Whyte:2005; Hoffman:1995: 280–1; Lacquer:1999: 4). As part of the lexicon of the ‘global war on terror’ the concept of ‘new terrorism’ has been deployed to lend justification to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the emergence of various anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency policies and measures introduced in the US, the UK and elsewhere. As Anthony Field (2009: 197) has suggested, ‘the dichotomy between “traditional” and “new” terrorism is the central analytical device of the “new terrorism” concept. ‘New terrorists’ are presented as a more dangerous threat than ‘traditional terrorists’ because they are more ‘pathological’ and ‘fanatical’ (Lacquer:1999: 226), motivated by religious and/or essentially non-rational imperatives, are unlimited by moral constraint and have immutable and non-negotiable goals (Burnett & Whyte:2005; Field:2008). In Britain the dichotomy between ‘traditional’ and ‘new terrorists’ has tended to contrast, either implicitly or explicitly, the nature of contemporary ‘Islamist terrorism’ with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their role in the 30 years of conflict in and about Northern Ireland. In so doing, the discursive construction of Irish republicanism and the IRA has undergone something of a partial revision in (at least amongst sections of) British political and media representations and been employed to legitimise the extension the State’s ‘counter-terror’ powers. What this paper will consider is the manner in which this is quite different to the representation of Irish republicanism by the state and mainstream media throughout the three decades of the conflict. Instead, the actions of the IRA and the views of Irish republicans were typically presented as being variously irrational in origin, non-political in intent and absolutist in nature. More akin, in other words, to the way that Islamists may be represented today than in contrast to the same. In illuminating continuities rather than contrasts in the representation of a supposedly non-political, ‘fanatical’ terrorist ‘Other’, the aim of this paper is therefore to critique and challenge the logic of ‘new terrorism’ discourse through the prism of the changing representation of Irish republicanism. ..
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Event7th War and Peace Conference, Inter-Disciplinary.Net - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 30 Apr 20102 May 2010

Conference

Conference7th War and Peace Conference, Inter-Disciplinary.Net
CountryCzech Republic
CityPrague
Period30/04/102/05/10

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    McGovern, M. (2010). The IRA are not Al Qaeda: New Terrorism Discourse and Irish Republicanism. Paper presented at 7th War and Peace Conference, Inter-Disciplinary.Net, Prague, Czech Republic.