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Beyond the "republican family": biography, genealogy, and intergenerational memory in twenty-first-century Ireland

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jack Hepworth



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Testimonies of Irish republicans active since 1969 frequently ascribe family connections to previous generations of militant activists. The significance of kinship ties in republican narratives is well established. Probing synergies and tensions between the family unit and the republican movement, this article problematises the routine invocation of republican family backgrounds. First, it interrogates how activists without republican lineage narrate their mobilisation and position themselves within the movement. Without familial access to the movement, it is argued, activists frame their own commitment as uniquely intense and reflective. Republicans from unorthodox backgrounds describe a uniquely critical and sophisticated politicisation process. The article’s second section examines the metaphorical formulation of ‘family’ in republicanism since the peace process of the 1990s. To maintain internal unity amid strategic reorientation, the Provisional movement invoked a ‘republican family’ within which misgivings and dissent could be contained and overcome. The ‘republican family’ metaphor helped Sinn Féin to rebut dissenting challenges and negotiate the movement’s transformation. Drawing upon republican oral histories and written autobiographical testimonies, this article elucidates how republican families – both literal and metaphorical – have alternately cohered and destabilised the movement. More broadly, the study yields insights into the implications of intergenerational memory for complex and contentious movements.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hepworth J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Irish Studies Review

Year: 2022

Volume: 29

Issue: 4

Pages: 425-443

Online publication date: 11/10/2021

Acceptance date: 25/06/2021

Date deposited: 15/03/2024

ISSN (print): 0967-0882

ISSN (electronic): 1469-9303

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09670882.2021.1983274


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