Imagine that you are interested in Irish Republicanism and you seek information on the years 1917-18, or 1923-38, or 1946-1955, or 1963-68 -- the interwar years. In these years the stage was set for the Tan War, the ‘40s Campaign and the Border Campaign, and the founding of the Provisionals. The war years dominate the literature, but the interwar years are essential for understanding IRA campaigns and their effects.
For example, the more information we have on the years 1946-55, the more we understand IRA Chief of Staff Tony Magan’s unwillingness to recognize Dáil Éireann, de facto or de jure, why it was not until after the Omagh raid in 1954 that Magan and Tomás MacCurtáin called a meeting of all IRA OCs to explain the Army Council’s decision to vote in General Order No. 8, and why the formally titled “Resistance Campaign” became known as the “Border Campaign?” – in spite of continued objections by some activists of the 1950s. Lest anyone believes this ancient Republican history (that is, anything before August 1969) is unimportant, keep in mind that these issues were important for people like Ruairí Ó Brádaigh - in 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002, and, assuming all goes well for the man, 2016. For those who would prefer to ignore the continued activity of an alternative Sinn Féin, and alternative IRAs, we will rephrase the question: Would our understanding of the Republican Movement in 1969-1972 be better if The Blanket had been available in 1963-1968? Yes!
Founded in the spring of 2001 and continuing until May 2008, The Blanket has provided an invaluable service for scholars, journalists, and persons interested in Irish Republicanism who want to know what was going on in front of and behind the scenes. Beginning with the Provisional IRA ceasefire of August 1994, Irish Republicanism embarked on a new path (at the time, at least, it seemed that the new path started then). Key points on this path include the GFA of 1998, the Provisional IRA cessation in 2005, and the St. Andrews Agreement in 2006. Irish Republicanism has never been monolithic (see Tone on the Belfast Harp festival). Splits, dissention in the ranks, alternative and critical points of view, and informers have always been there (Saor Uladh, Saor Éire, and James Carey come to mind). The Blanket has provided insight into aspects of Irish Republicanism that traditionally have been under-examined.
Critics may dismiss The Blanket as biased and out of the mainstream, but years from now The Blanket will be essential reading for people trying to figure out what happened between Martin McGuinness saying, “I reject the notion that entering Leinster House would mean an end to Sinn Féin’s unapologetic support for the right of Irish people to oppose in arms the British forces of occupation” (1986) and McGuinness and Rev. Ian Paisley working together as Deputy First Minister and First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly (2007-08). Whether you like or hate The Blanket, those of us interested in understanding and interpreting modern Irish Republican must thank Carrie Twomey and Anthony McIntyre for their efforts.