Republican band culture is insubstantial and split: new report

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Republican band culture is small-scale, fractured and doesn’t enjoy the levels of community support Loyalist bands receive, according to new report that has been published by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF).

Two years ago the Forum published ‘Sons of Ulster: Exploring Loyalist band members attitudes towards culture, identity and heritage.’
Now, as the Easter 1916 centenary approaches, the organisation has followed this up with ‘Mise Éire’ a look at loyalist band culture’s republican and republican socialist counterpart.

Project co-ordinator Neil Symington said: “One of the things we were struck by in compiling this report was the sheer variety and diversity of Republican bands.

“There are many shades of green with bands aligned to different aspects of Republicanism and Republican Socialism. Some bands are more interested in commemoration while others are concerned with celebrating their cultural identity.”

Speaking at the launch at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) headquarters on the Tiger’s Bay New Lodge interface in Belfast, Sean Feenan, a contributor suggested that the republican tradition is smaller and more divided than the loyalist one.

“This is a very mixed community and much smaller than the Loyalist Band community. The Republican/Republican Socialist community has many different groupings and factions and this is reflected, for the most part, in band allegiance or perceived allegiance.

“We learn from the band members that they do not feel that they are supported by the wider community in the same way as Loyalist Bands are supported and we learn that Republican Bands have less access to funding and other support structures,” he said.

A total of 61 members of six Republican bands took part in a series of focus groups and workshops to examine areas such as reasons for participation, public perception, culture, and politics.

One member of a Derry band commented: “Growing up in the Creggan it was hard to get through life without being led astray or getting involved in things you shouldn’t have. The band was an escape from all that.”

Chris Quinn, Director of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum, said the objective was to explore the attitudes and experiences of young Nationalist band members.

“We believe that engaging with young people from all backgrounds provides them with a voice, leading to a fairer representation of their culture and heritage. It is hoped that this report and the earlier report into loyalist bands will provide the catalyst for a comparative study involving all the young people and leading to a renewed focus on exploring the cultural traditions and commemorations of each community.”