Ripe through recognition?
The case of the Provisional Irish Republican Army
in Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition
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According to ripeness theory, a conflict becomes ripe for resolution when a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’ coincides with a ‘way out’. This chapter deals with a non-state armed group that became ripe for identity change: the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).

Based on field research in Northern Ireland, this study of PIRA helps to paint a differentiated picture of ripeness theory. PIRA leaders acknowledged friends and enemies and therewith became ripe to question their identity. Thus, friends like the African National Congress in South Africa helped PIRA leaders to recognise a way out in the first place by emphasising that they learned how to win through politics rather than violence. Learning from enemies such as the UK and the Unionists, in turn, contributed to PIRA’s perception of a mutually hurting stalemate. Furthermore, both – the mutually hurting stalemate and the way out – had to be sold by the leaders to their follower base. The recognition of PIRA leaders as role models around the world thereby contributed to their capacity to convince the follower base.

This case study is revealing with regards to how ripeness is realised and negotiated when friends and enemies are acknowledged. It helps to grasp the complexities of ripeness by complementing ripeness theory with a view of how a non-state armed actor realised, acknowledged and recognised itself and others.

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