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Title: Identity change amongst loyalist paramilitary organisations
Author: Flack, Patrick
ISNI:       0000 0004 6425 2952
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2017
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The three studies presented in this thesis explore the issue of identity change amongst loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. Social and political psychology has yet to examine how these organisations have managed to retain their identity despite the main condition that justified their existence, armed conflict, no longer being in place. Study one involved 15 semi-structured interviews with former members of loyalist paramilitary organisations. Study two provided an analysis of magazine articles produced by the UVF and the UDA. Study three involved six focus groups with ‘ordinary’ (not paramilitary affiliated) members of the Protestant working-class community. Taken together, this research found that collective nostalgia was used by loyalist paramilitary organisations as they negotiated their change in function/context and attempted to forge collective continuity with the past. Interviewees spoke nostalgically about the past and magazine articles used this collective nostalgia to advocate a prototypical loyalist identity. Magazines also constructed collective continuity by presenting various new out­groups, thus maintaining an oppositional identity. Contradictory discourse was common throughout focus groups in study three. At times, community members felt that these organisations prevented them from “getting on with their lives”. However, participants also expressed a desire for some paramilitary activity to remain, highlighting the complexity of identity change. Drawing on insights from rhetorical psychology and the new psychology of leadership, this research found that the ways in which the past is used to inform an identity impacts on the extent to which groups are supported. When implementing change, the identity of followers/in-group members needs to be understood in new contexts. These findings highlight the strategic function of collective nostalgia and collective continuity for loyalist paramilitary organisations, which is indicative of their dissatisfaction with the present context. More broadly, this research emphasises how organisational members draw on their collective past to understand who they are, who their enemies are and how they should act. I argue throughout the thesis that these findings have important peace-building implications.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available