Social movements, structural violence and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland: The role of Loyalist Paramilitaries

Ferguson, Neil and McDaid, Shaun and McAuley, James W (2018) Social movements, structural violence and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland: The role of Loyalist Paramilitaries. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 24 (1). pp. 19-26. ISSN 1078-1919

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This article analyses how social movements and collective actors can affect political and social transformation in a structurally violent society using the case study of Northern Ireland. We focus, in particular, on the crucial role played by collective actors within the loyalist community (those who wish to maintain Northern Ireland’s place in the UK), in bringing about social and political transformation in a society blighted by direct, cultural, and structural violence both during the conflict and subsequent peace process. Drawing on data obtained through in-depth interviews with loyalist activists (including former paramilitaries), the article demonstrates the role and impact of loyalists and loyalism in Northern Ireland’s transition. We identify five conflict transformation challenges addressed by loyalist actors in a structurally violent society: demythologising the conflict; stopping direct violence; resisting pressure to maintain the use of violence; development of robust activist identity; and the measurement of progress through reference to the parallel conflict transformation journey of their former republican enemies. The Northern Ireland case demonstrates the necessity for holistic conflict transformation strategies which attempt not only to stop direct attacks, but also the cultural and structural violence which underpin and legitimise them. In so doing, the article contributes to a broader understanding of how and why paramilitary campaigns are brought to an end.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: The official published article is available online at This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > Psychology
Depositing User: Neil Ferguson
Date Deposited: 30 May 2017 13:30
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2019 16:22

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