The next generation

I’ve written before (like yesterday and back in March) about the dangers to peace in Northern Ireland that come with alienated and disenfranchised youths in both Loyalist and Nationalist communities. Not old enough to remember how bad things were during the bad old days of the Troubles, they are seen as ripe for recruiting by paramilitaries on both sides.

I was plenty aware of this in the North, but it came as a little bit of a surprise to see, as Vice News reported (the video is above), that recruiting is also happening in the South, what dissident Republicans derisively refer to as the Free State.

The youth organization featured in the story, Na Fianna Éireann (“Warriors of Ireland” is the English translation), is linked to Republican Sinn Fein, which split from Sinn Fein in 1986 in a dispute over Republican orthodoxy and political strategy. It was interesting to see familiar faces of people I’ve met (like Josephine Hayden) and interviewed (RSF president Des Dalton). RSF has in turn been linked to the armed dissident group the Continuity IRA, which in May released photos of its volunteers “patrolling” the streets of a housing estate in Lurgan.

The Vice News report runs 20 minutes and is well worth the time to get a snapshot of dissident Republican ideology and look at the kids that groups like RSF think represent the future of the struggle.

A dissident Republican voice on political change, political debate

Tony Catney
Tony “TC” Catney

I met Tony Catney, a veteran IRA volunteer and former Sinn Fein national director of elections, in February 2013 and spent two hours interviewing him as part of the research I have been conducting on the maintenance of the peace process in the years since the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Catney broke with the leadership of the Provisional Movement in 2005 in a dispute over political strategy and what he believed to be a climate within the movement which was intolerant of dissent and which deemed open debate over the movement’s direction illegitimate.  After Catney died in August 2014, I shared excerpts of the interview with The Pensive Quill, a widely read blog run by former IRA volunteer, prisoner and writer Anthony McIntyre, who after his release from prison earned a PhD in history from Queens University Belfast.  McIntyre, like Catney, is a prominent critic of Sinn Fein and its leadership.

On Saturday I will travel down to Dublin to attend the first Tony Catney Memorial Debate, sponsored by the 1916 Societies, on Republicanism in the 21st century.  In advance of that event, I went back to the transcript of my original interview with Catney and put together excerpts in which he talks about he believed the future of Northern Ireland looked like, the potential for it to once again erupt in violence, and the importance of open debate to bring about changes in Republican politics.  Those excerpts, along with an introduction by me and comments of my own to give context to Catney’s remarks and transition between topics, was published this morning at The Pensive Quill.

The essay is long, so rather than reprint it here, follow the link above to read it at TPQ, and then check out the earlier excerpts as well.