Anthony McIntyre 🔖 The Irish republican genre has been a fertile field to plough as of late.


Books by Shane Ross, Jonathan Trigg, Rory Carroll - and hot off the press work by Jennifer O'Leary quickly followed by Aoife Moore - serve up up a rich and tasty platter of literature. Moore in particular has dwelt on the vigorous and oppressive regime of truth that has come to characterise Sinn Fein and the difficulty that poses for researchers who want to get behind the institutional lie that the same regime of truth is constructed to mask. Alternative voices do not exactly parade the Sinn Fein catwalk in full public view. With that thought planted in my mind I bypassed the latest output and paid a return visit to an older work which holds its own on the top shelf of Irish republican historiography. 

A few years ago the Liverpool domiciled writer and researcher, Paddy Hoey, sought to unmute those alternative voices within the labyrinthine world of oppositional republican politics. He did so not because he supported what they were saying or out of fidelity to a critique of Sinn Fein. His was a desire to more fully inform public awareness. His interest lay not in promoting what 'Dissos' and others said but in illustrating what they were actually saying and seeking to bring clarity to the motives behind their discourse.

Shinners, Dissos and Dissidents was not the first investigative foray onto the discursive terrain of those republicans who had refrained from drinking the Good Friday Agreement Kool-Aid. Martin Frampton and Rogelio Alonso were two of the earlier pioneers in that particular minefield. The booby trap set to explode on contact was the guaranteed difficulty for future research projects which the researcher would inevitably face as a consequence of having given space to voices not approved by Sinn Fein. As a party figure told Aoife Moore, 'Don't worry, we remember things like that.' The very reason a researcher would worry - party sources dry up. Hoey was undeterred. He picked up the device and carried it to the end of an enlightening intellectual journey.

As stated above, the path he was walking had felt the tread of footsteps made by previous researchers, but what was innovative about Hoey's work was its focus on the media activism of republicans and how it had mushroomed in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

Unlike the works mentioned at the start of this review this is very much a rigorous academic endeavour with the necessary research in train. A thorough all round read, of particular interest to me was the author's coverage in Chapter 5 of what he called a republican digital counterculture. In that section of the book Hoey focused exclusively on two online projects I had been involved in -  Fourthwrite and The Blanket. His treatment of each was both rigorous and judicious.

The Blanket moreso than Fourthwrite shone through the mist of censorship with which leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein had sought to smother critical voices. Boosted by coverage from John Fay's unrivalled Nuzhound it became a prominent feature of public discourse with journalists, governments, republicans, Sinn Fein, Unionists, spooks and security service alike trawling through it regularly. David Trimble once quoted from it in the House of Commons in a bid to mock Sinn Fein organised lying. It was never welcome within party circles and many attempts were made to marginalise it. A Sinn Fein official once relayed to me how people in the party office where he worked were prohibited from looking at it on their computers. When I asked him why they did read it, he did not go as far as to tell me they wanted the truth rather than the guff, restricting himself to commenting that they thought it better to listen to more voices rather than fewer. Some simply benefited from a laugh, courtesy of the journal's iconoclastic mocking of the pompousness and pretentiousness of their party leader. While the author of Shinners, Dissos and Dissidents did not set out to annoy the Sinn Fein leadership there is little doubt that by comparing The Blanket to The Bell he very much did just that.

Hoey showed how the internet opened up a whole new world. Writers were no longer dependent on print media or the cash necessary to sustain such a means of communication: the internet was largely free, making it a powerful weapon with which silence could morph into articulate and coherent sound against the powerful in a wide range of institutions. While a dark side has since emerged to its character, in its early days the positives very much outweighed the negatives, the focus very much on the potential for a more level and democratic playing field in the sphere of public discourse.  

Hoey's book unfortunately seems to have suffered from its academic structure, rendering it something of a niche work. Analytically grounded in theories of counterculture and alternative space in which the hegemonic projects could be radically challenged, it will not be the first worthy work of meticulous application to find the going hard in making the leap from academic to popular culture. As science writers have discovered, most readers want their stuff popularised. It is also regrettable because quality work of this nature deserves a much wider audience.

Although written in tight academic style, and theoretically informed, it is far from impenetrable. Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant once said that success is often marginal: an observation that underscores how a book on a par with Marisa McGlinchey's excellent Unfinished Business failed to get anywhere near the same amount of public discussion or media attention that McGlinchey's was able to draw.

In time others will come to tread in the footsteps of Hoey. They just might not be able to fill his shoes. 

Paddy Hoey, 2018, Shinners, Dissos and Dissenters: Irish republican media activism since the Good Friday Agreement. Manchester University Press. ISBN-13: ‎978-1526114242.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Shinners, Dissos And Dissidents

Anthony McIntyre 🔖 The Irish republican genre has been a fertile field to plough as of late.


Books by Shane Ross, Jonathan Trigg, Rory Carroll - and hot off the press work by Jennifer O'Leary quickly followed by Aoife Moore - serve up up a rich and tasty platter of literature. Moore in particular has dwelt on the vigorous and oppressive regime of truth that has come to characterise Sinn Fein and the difficulty that poses for researchers who want to get behind the institutional lie that the same regime of truth is constructed to mask. Alternative voices do not exactly parade the Sinn Fein catwalk in full public view. With that thought planted in my mind I bypassed the latest output and paid a return visit to an older work which holds its own on the top shelf of Irish republican historiography. 

A few years ago the Liverpool domiciled writer and researcher, Paddy Hoey, sought to unmute those alternative voices within the labyrinthine world of oppositional republican politics. He did so not because he supported what they were saying or out of fidelity to a critique of Sinn Fein. His was a desire to more fully inform public awareness. His interest lay not in promoting what 'Dissos' and others said but in illustrating what they were actually saying and seeking to bring clarity to the motives behind their discourse.

Shinners, Dissos and Dissidents was not the first investigative foray onto the discursive terrain of those republicans who had refrained from drinking the Good Friday Agreement Kool-Aid. Martin Frampton and Rogelio Alonso were two of the earlier pioneers in that particular minefield. The booby trap set to explode on contact was the guaranteed difficulty for future research projects which the researcher would inevitably face as a consequence of having given space to voices not approved by Sinn Fein. As a party figure told Aoife Moore, 'Don't worry, we remember things like that.' The very reason a researcher would worry - party sources dry up. Hoey was undeterred. He picked up the device and carried it to the end of an enlightening intellectual journey.

As stated above, the path he was walking had felt the tread of footsteps made by previous researchers, but what was innovative about Hoey's work was its focus on the media activism of republicans and how it had mushroomed in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

Unlike the works mentioned at the start of this review this is very much a rigorous academic endeavour with the necessary research in train. A thorough all round read, of particular interest to me was the author's coverage in Chapter 5 of what he called a republican digital counterculture. In that section of the book Hoey focused exclusively on two online projects I had been involved in -  Fourthwrite and The Blanket. His treatment of each was both rigorous and judicious.

The Blanket moreso than Fourthwrite shone through the mist of censorship with which leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein had sought to smother critical voices. Boosted by coverage from John Fay's unrivalled Nuzhound it became a prominent feature of public discourse with journalists, governments, republicans, Sinn Fein, Unionists, spooks and security service alike trawling through it regularly. David Trimble once quoted from it in the House of Commons in a bid to mock Sinn Fein organised lying. It was never welcome within party circles and many attempts were made to marginalise it. A Sinn Fein official once relayed to me how people in the party office where he worked were prohibited from looking at it on their computers. When I asked him why they did read it, he did not go as far as to tell me they wanted the truth rather than the guff, restricting himself to commenting that they thought it better to listen to more voices rather than fewer. Some simply benefited from a laugh, courtesy of the journal's iconoclastic mocking of the pompousness and pretentiousness of their party leader. While the author of Shinners, Dissos and Dissidents did not set out to annoy the Sinn Fein leadership there is little doubt that by comparing The Blanket to The Bell he very much did just that.

Hoey showed how the internet opened up a whole new world. Writers were no longer dependent on print media or the cash necessary to sustain such a means of communication: the internet was largely free, making it a powerful weapon with which silence could morph into articulate and coherent sound against the powerful in a wide range of institutions. While a dark side has since emerged to its character, in its early days the positives very much outweighed the negatives, the focus very much on the potential for a more level and democratic playing field in the sphere of public discourse.  

Hoey's book unfortunately seems to have suffered from its academic structure, rendering it something of a niche work. Analytically grounded in theories of counterculture and alternative space in which the hegemonic projects could be radically challenged, it will not be the first worthy work of meticulous application to find the going hard in making the leap from academic to popular culture. As science writers have discovered, most readers want their stuff popularised. It is also regrettable because quality work of this nature deserves a much wider audience.

Although written in tight academic style, and theoretically informed, it is far from impenetrable. Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant once said that success is often marginal: an observation that underscores how a book on a par with Marisa McGlinchey's excellent Unfinished Business failed to get anywhere near the same amount of public discussion or media attention that McGlinchey's was able to draw.

In time others will come to tread in the footsteps of Hoey. They just might not be able to fill his shoes. 

Paddy Hoey, 2018, Shinners, Dissos and Dissenters: Irish republican media activism since the Good Friday Agreement. Manchester University Press. ISBN-13: ‎978-1526114242.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

1 comment:

  1. The more I hear about the Shinners the more they sound like North Korea.

    ReplyDelete