Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Margaret G. Hermann


Conflict Transformation, Dual-Wing Resistance Oganizations, IRA, Levels of Analysis, Northern Ireland, Process Tracing

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The main goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of the process of conflict transformation. More specifically, I wish to examine what are the circumstances that push Dual Wing Resistance Organizations (DWRO), and particularly, the Irish Provisional Republican Movement to behave in one of four different ways: convergent towards violence, convergence towards cooperation, divergence and confusion.

My main argument is that in order to understand conflict transformation processes and what pushes an organization to behave in a particular way one must look into the interaction between factors at three levels of analysis: the context, organizational dynamics and leadership. Beyond this claim, my analysis focuses on answering a couple of other questions as well: Can studying a process and not just snap-shots in time lead to better understanding of organizational decisions? Can any one particular factor be responsible for every type of behavior? Can any one factor be relevant in the same way in all types of cases? Are some factors more relevant in leading to some types of behaviors over others? Can any one level of analysis explain all types of behaviors? and lastly, what is the role of leaders in conflict transformation processes? particularly, what role did Adams play in the process, what type of a leader was he and did he change over time?

To answer my questions, I process traced the Northern Ireland conflict from the end of 1983, when Gerry Adams became the president of Sinn Féin and until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in May 1998. I divided my timeline into 24 cases, ten cases of convergence towards cooperation, three cases of convergence towards violence, eight cases of divergence and three cases of confusion. For each case, I examined the four-months period leading up to the studied behavior.

I looked for actions by the British (government, military, court and police), the Irish (government, military, court and police), Unionists (political parties, as well as loyalist paramilitaries), intermediaries, promoters of peace and spoilers. I also looked into the potential role elections and agreements had to play. I then looked into the state of organizational dynamics in the period leading to each of my cases, what was going on within the organization, was there preference divergence between leadership and rank and file? Was there preference divergence between the two wings? Was there preference divergence between leaders? At that point I looked more closely into the workings of Adams – was he being sensitive to the context? Was he pushing his own agenda forward and bringing the organization with him or was he letting the organizational constraints dictate his behavior?

This process helped me in answering my questions, but also to understand whether factors from the different levels of analysis interacted with each other in leading to particular behaviors over others. I found that it is indeed illuminating to look into a process as a whole. Studying single-snap shots of behaviors can never tell the entire story. Looking into particular cases without considering past interactions between the various actors relevant in the conflict environment may lead to misunderstandings. I also found that the organizational decision to behave in one way or another is determined by the interaction of factors from the various levels.

However, I also found that even the same type of organizational behavior can be driven by different organizational goals. Meaning, sometimes the organization chooses to diverge out of necessity and fear of splintering, whereas in other times it is a tactical decision. In any case, the choice is not determined by the organizational dynamics alone, but by the context and the leadership as well. Meaning, both divergence and convergence can be driven by an organizational need to survive, but it is the context and the leadership that will determine which of the two behaviors will be adopted. The other side of the coin is that the same organizational motivation can lead to different behaviors, depending on the context and the leadership.

When it comes to the particular contextual factors, I found that the British were relevant in all of the cases studied. Additionally, the British played a significant role in pushing the organization towards convergence, whereas the Unionists were found to be much more active during times of divergence, but not necessarily relevant for organizational decision making per se. The context as a whole mostly helped in explaining the choice between violence and cooperation. The particular factors within the context level were far less straight-forward in their effect. All factors were found to have both positive and negative effects. Promoters of peace were mostly acting in positive ways, but even they had some actions that were seen as negative from the Republican Movement’s point of view. The Irish Republic was mostly negative in cases of divergence and only negative in cases of convergence towards violence and elections were found to be significant more in times of divergence than in time of convergence. When the context could not explain particular behaviors, organizational dynamics and leadership helped filling in the gap.

Lastly I found Gerry Adams to be a strategic leader that was hugely central in the progress of the conflict transformation process, due to his unique position within the organization, his leadership skills, his sensitivity to information, his long-windedness, his political skills and his charisma. He may not have been central in every organizational decision that was taken, and he may have been pulled by his own organization towards positions that were contrary to his agenda, but he nonetheless was central for the transformation of the movement from violence to cooperation and for the conflict transformation process as a whole.


Open Access