Sowing dragon's teeth: public support for political violence and paramilitarism in Northern Ireland

Bernadette C Hayes, I. McAllister

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92 Citations (Scopus)


While much attention has been devoted to political efforts to solve the Northern Ireland problem, less attention has been given to the role of political violence in sustaining the conflict. We argue that one of the reasons for the intractability of the conflict is widespread exposure to political violence among the Civil Population. By 1998, thirty years after the conflict Started, one in seven Of the population reported being a victim of violence; one in five had a family member killed or injured; and one in four had been caught LIP in an explosion. Such widespread exposure to violence exists alongside latent support for paramilitarism among a significant minority of both communities. Using 1998 survey data, we show that exposure to violence serves to enhance public support for paramilitary groups, as well as to reduce support for the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. Overall, the results suggest that only a lengthy period Without political violence will undermine support for paramilitarism and result in the decommissioning of weapons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-922
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001

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