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Reframing War to Make Peace in Northern Ireland

IRA Internal Consensus-Building for Peace and Disarmament

Journal International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, Issue 1 2015
Keywords Northern Ireland, intra-group negotiations, disarmament, political transition, IRA
Authors Dr. Benedetta Berti and Ariel Heifetz Knobel
AbstractAuthor's information

    In exploring alternatives to armed struggle, how do non-state armed groups embark on such complex internal discussions, and how do they reframe their worldview and strategy to persuade their militants to support such transition?
    The article tackles this question by examining the internal processes of consensus-building that brought the most prominent militant organization in Northern Ireland – the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) – from violent struggle for independence to non-violent political participation in the political system it had previously fought to expel.
    The study relies on fieldwork and applied research through interviews, conducted in Northern Ireland and Ireland with key stakeholders, ranging from ex-prisoner leaders and former militants to politicians, official negotiators and civil society practitioners who work with various conflict parties on the ground. Historical literature and primary sources are also used, including Sinn Féin and IRA official documents. All primary sources are integrated with the theoretical literature on intra-group consensus-building and discursive reframing.
    The analysis underscores the importance of discursive practices to ensure frame-shift in both the understanding of the conflict (consensus mobilization) and the means chosen to wage it (action mobilization). The case of the IRA further reveals the importance of preserving continuity with an organization’s core ideological pillars as a key mechanism to minimize chances of internal strife, along with enlisting credible supporters from the ‘militant constituency’ – such as former prisoners and/or militants with deep and personal involvement in the group’s armed struggle.


Dr. Benedetta Berti
Dr. Benedetta Berti is a Kreitman postdoctoral fellow at Ben Gurion University, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and the author of Armed Political Organizations. From Conflict to Integration. <https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/armed-political-organizations>.

Ariel Heifetz Knobel
Ariel Heifetz Knobel is a conflict transformation practitioner, facilitating Track 2 and Track 1.5 initiatives in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and working with Northern Irish peacemakers to bring best practices to the region. She has served as Public Diplomacy Director for five states at the Israeli Consulate to New England, and as a mediator in Boston’s district courts.
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