Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Gordon Clubb

Disengagement and De-Radicalisation of the Irish Republican movement

Photo of Dr Gordon Clubb

Despite the promises of a ‘long peace’ in Northern Ireland following the Provisional IRA’s disengagement in 2005, a glance at the history of the Irish Republican movement might give the impression that history will continue to repeat itself. Organisational disengagement and a decline in violence has often preceded the revival of a new iteration of the IRA: the Irish Free State’s campaign in the 1920s and the Border Campaign in the 1960s witnessed the ‘end’ of the IRA in different ways, only to see some continuation in the case of the former and a massive resurgence following on from the latter. The emergence of the Provisional IRA was followed by an attempt at disengagement in 1975, and although this failed, the lessons of each of these attempts at disengagement would provide guidance to the Provisional IRA leadership in the 1980s onwards. Despite the Provisional IRA’s disengagement, starting in 1994 and concluding with its official disbandment in 2005, the risk of a return to violence remains. In this context, the thesis asks how do campaigns of terrorism and political violence end in a manner that reduces the risk of a slip-back into violence.

The thesis takes a social movement perspective that can provide a much-needed multi-level analysis, which can take into account social factors that can drive violence over generations and beyond separate groups. Three factors are explored to account for disengagement and de-radicalisation on the Irish Republican movement from the 1990s to 2013. Frames analysis is used to explain how the arguments used to justify disengagement are developed and diffused throughout the group and then to the movement more broadly, particularly the younger generation. By drawing on original interviews, the thesis demonstrates how the Provisional IRA’s organisational disengagement into the social sphere provided the necessary linkages to diffuse the disengagement frame and built up trust with other militant groups, which created a domino-effect of disengagement. A structural analysis of the consociational political system demonstrates the manner in which grievances are addressed and opportunities for dissident Republicans is denied.


  • Clubb, G, Mabon, S, and Kennedy-Pipe, C. (2014) ‘Terrorism and Political Violence’, Sage Press, London
  • Worral, J, Mabon; S, and Clubb, G. (2015) ‘Hizbollah: From Shia Resistance to Government’, Praeger Publishing
  • Clubb, G. (2009) ‘Re-evaluating the Disengagement Process: the Case of Fatah’, Perspectives on Terrorism
  • Clubb, G. (2013) ‘Pathways to Impact: Opportunities and Obstacles for Terrorism Researchers and the Professional Service Sector’, LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog
  • Clubb, G. (2013) ‘Causes of the Northern Ireland Flag Dispute’, Open Democracy

Affiliations and Responsibilities

Head of the Terrorism and Political Violence Association – TRI’s UK network

Research Assistant, Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI)

Conference Co-ordinator, Conflict Research Society

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