Author: Schmidt, Tayler
The propagandization of martyrdom and political ideologies by extremist organizations is often explored in the context of criminology and terrorism studies with special focus paid to Islamist—and, in rare circumstances, right-wing—extremism. There is astonishingly little research on the role of Western ethnonationalist and leftist movements in using and abusing the martyrs they generate. This thesis utilizes two different approaches to conduct an instrumental case study on the iconography of 1981 Provisional IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands: (1) A thematic content analysis of Irish republican extremist newsletter, An Phoblacht, and (2) semi-structured interviews with former IRA and INLA members. Comparing these accounts points to evidence of how an aligned political organization (Sinn Féin) appropriated Sands, his ideology, and his comrades in the process of transitioning towards and maintaining peace in Northern Ireland. This thesis challenges the dominant narrative of the 1981 H-Blocks hunger strike, concluding that the image of Bobby Sands and his fellow hunger strikers remains under the control of Gerry Adams and other members of Sinn Féin despite inappropriately utilizing their deaths to build political capital, thereby generating an ongoing feud oft overlooked in North American studies into the Troubles.
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Thesis advisor: Palys, Ted
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