From militancy to new media
: the discursive construction of Irish republicanism

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In spite of past marginalisation (Hayes 2012), in the twenty first century, Irish republicanism—predominantly through the vehicle of Sinn Féin—has undergone a process of mainstreaming and a modernisation of its image (Hoey 2018, Maillot 2004, Reilly 2013): resulting in a seismic shift in the Irish political landscape and a rise in support. Nowhere is this discursive shift more evident than republicanism’s online spaces where it enjoys a loyal and vocal support base from a cohort known colloquially as ‘Shinnerbots.’ Yet despite this mainstreaming, republican discourse remains radical and relies on a nuanced interpretation of the past to legitimate its peripheral critique of existing centres of political power. (Filardo-Llamas 2013, Alonso 2016 and Goulding 2022 forthcoming) This points toward a disparity between surface representation and socio-political strategy: on one level republicanism remains radical and critical of power, yet simultaneously it is integrating into political structures it continues to delegitimate.

This thesis capitalises on the ability for social media to provide ‘large data sets that can be aptly used for social-science research.’ (KhosraviNik and Unger 2016:211) Taking nationalism to be a discursive formation (Calhoun 1997), this thesis adopts an approach to Irish republicanism from the field of critical discourse analysis (Wodak 2001, de Cillia et al. 1999). Drawing data from several virtual
sites of republican discourse, it aims to critique problematic aspects of contemporary Irish republicanism and its reproduction. Over three analytical chapters, the reconstruction of Irish republican identity and ideology, the
negotiation of its mainstreaming into popular cultural forms, and its reproduction in response to day-to-day political events are examined from the perspective of grassroots ideologues. As such, this thesis’ main contribution will be to provide an up-to-date account of discourses of republicanism (and the power dynamics which underpin these) and their strategic reproduction in virtually mediated spaces that are peripheral to elite republican centres of power
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorRobert Porter (Supervisor), Karyn Stapleton (Supervisor) & Phil Ramsey (Supervisor)


  • Media
  • Communication

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