Sinn Fein, the Past and Political Strategy: The Provisional Irish Republican Movement and the Politics of 'Reconciliation'

2015-02-18T15:11:04Z (GMT) by Stephen Hopkins
This article examines a critical aspect of the contemporary political debate in Northern Ireland regarding ‘the past’, and how to deal with the legacies of violent conflict. The article will specifically analyse the Provisional republican movement’s developing policy in this area. It outlines Sinn Féin’s (SF’s) policy evolution with regard to ideas of ‘truth and reconciliation’ in the context of the post-Belfast Agreement era of ‘peace’. It proceeds to critically assess the Republican movement’s demands for an independent and international process of ‘truth recovery’, and subsequently engages in a detailed critique of SF’s recent promotion of a ‘reconciliation strategy’, designed to enhance the movement’s strategic agenda, and usher in a new phase in the ‘peace process’. The article concludes by arguing that SF’s approach to ‘truth and reconciliation’ has been characterised by an emphasis upon the movement’s efforts to legitimise its version of the historical narrative of the Troubles, rather than by any authentic attempt to address self-critically the previous commitment to ‘armed struggle’, or to seek genuine compromise with unionists, loyalists and the broader Protestant population. This approach has also been formulated for an internal audience, with the goal of convincing republicans that progress towards a united Ireland has not stalled.