The Long March pp 102-132 | Cite as

Confronting Unionism, Negotiation and Agreement, 1997–2001



The ‘restoration’ of the IRA ceasefire in July 1997 was predicated on an understanding that Sinn Féin would quickly be invited into peace talks. Once there, the Adams–McGuinness leadership imagined that the party would stand alongside the other forces of Irish nationalism (specifically, the SDLP and Fianna Fáil) to confront the British and their Unionist allies. Such was the alternative designed by the republican leadership to an IRA campaign that was demonstrably failing. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that, even in July 1997, Adams and McGuinness had completely ruled out a return to armed struggle. On the contrary, it was really only in the wake of the ‘Real’ IRA’s disastrous bombing of the town of Omagh in 1998 that any resumption of the IRA’s campaign became inconceivable in their minds; a point then further underlined by the al-Qaeda attacks on America (and the fallout from them), of 11 September 2001. The effect of the latter, in the words of Gerry MacLochlainn, a former member of Sinn Féin’s International Department, was such as to ‘make it almost impossible for groups to consider a particular form of struggle that would have been acceptable a few years ago’.2 Yet, prior to those events, it seems likely that the republican leadership felt that some sort of renewed campaign might have been possible in the event of further political failure. After all, therein lay the essence of the ‘tactical use of armed struggle’ strategy upon which the ceasefire was based: that the war could be switched on or off, according to the needs of the movement.


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Copyright information

© Martyn Frampton 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PeterhouseUniversity of CambridgeUK

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