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Keywords:

  • contemporary Northern Irish politics and political economy;
  • Irish republicanism;
  • dissident Irish republicanism;
  • social movements and political violence

This article discusses recent developments in dissident Irish republicanism and some of the arguments advanced to explain its emergence as a factor in Northern Irish politics. In particular it considers those explanations which define these new armed groups as either the latest manifestation of a historically determined Irish republican tradition or simply as ‘residual terrorist groups’ left behind by Provisional republicanism's movement into the constitutional mainstream in the 1990s. It rejects these arguments as ahistorical and schematic, and instead suggests that the dynamics and trajectory of dissident republicanism are shaped instead by the inherent tensions and structures of ‘the new Northern Ireland’. It goes on to compare the contemporary political, social and economic forces that produce the dissidents with the conditions that created the Provisionals as in the early 1970s and concludes that whilst these new groups will continue to pose a threat to the ‘normalization’ of the new dispensation they will not be successful as their republican forebears in mobilizing a significant and sustained challenge to the Northern Irish state.