As a popular, generally accessible and therefore widely read fictional genre, Troubles novels are one medium through which representations of Irish Republicans are disseminated. For some readers such fictional representations may provide their only insight into the experiences and mentality of Irish Republicans. Therefore it becomes important to investigate whether fictional portrayals accurately resemble or inaccurately misrepresent IRA members and to find ways of developing fictional representations that do not perpetuate misapprehensions about IRA members.
“Troubles Women” undertakes one aspect of such an investigation, exploring how IRA women are portrayed in Troubles fiction through a practice-led creative writing project. This is a significant area of research as female protagonists are underrepresented in the genre and frequently misrepresented through an over-reliance on stereotypes derived from misconceptions about them.
The project’s primary research method was the production of an original work of Troubles fiction, a novel focused on the lived experience of being an IRA woman during the 1980s, the height of the modern Troubles. The project involved extensive research into both factual account of IRA women and fictional portrayals of them in Troubles novels. This research uncovered the recurring propensity of Troubles fiction to misrepresent female IRA members, using chauvinistic stereotypes to characterise these protagonists in ways that contradict factual evidence about them.
The creative practice central to this project, Herself Alone in Orange Rain, sought ways of writing that challenged the use of such stereotypes, countering them by developing female IRA characters who more accurately resembled their real life counterparts. In producing such a novel this project makes an original contribution to the genre of Troubles fiction and the academic field of creative writing by demonstrating a new writing approach that develops a credible fictional portrayal of the lived experience of being an IRA woman.