Radicalization or Reaction: Understanding Engagement in Violent Extremism in Northern Ireland

Ferguson, Neil and McAuley, James W (2019) Radicalization or Reaction: Understanding Engagement in Violent Extremism in Northern Ireland. Political Psychology. ISSN 0162-895X

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Over the last decade various theoretical models of radicalization or pathways into engagement in violent extremism have been developed. However, there is a dearth of primary data based on direct contact with violent extremists to test these models. In order to address this weakness we analysed accounts of engagement in violent extremism produced by former Northern Irish loyalist and republican paramilitaries to explore their understanding of how and why they engaged in this seemingly politically motivated violence. A thematic analysis incorporating aspects of interpretative phenomenological analysis was employed to gain an understanding of these accounts. While the analysis of the interview transcripts produced findings that share similarities with many of the theoretical models, they challenge the importance of ideological radicalization in fuelling initial engagement in violent extremism. Instead, the results demonstrate the importance of collective identity, reaction to events, perceived threats, community grievance and peer and family influences, in fuelling initial engagement with the armed groups. While insulation and small group pressures within the organizations then amplify identity, threat perceptions, and biases, which increase feelings of efficacy and engagement in violence. Finally, the findings discuss the role of imprisonment in ideologically radicalizing the participants, which in turn allows the paramilitaries to both sustain and rationalise their violent extremism.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: This is the author's version of an article that was accepted for publication in Political Psychology. The final version is available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12618
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > Psychology
Depositing User: Neil Ferguson
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2019 13:11
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2019 13:14
URI: https://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/2935

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