The tipping point of terror: The psychological drivers of escalation from sympathetic to active involvement in violent extremism in Northern Ireland

Emma Ylitalo-James, Andrew Silke, Anastasia Filippidou

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This research has sought to help answer that question by examining two groups in Northern Ireland: the first composed of seventeen former paramilitary members and the second composed of twelve paramilitary sympathisers. The sympathisers
acted as a control group as both came from similar areas and had very similar backgrounds. The research focused on identifying and examining differences and similarities between the two groups. Semi structured interviews, questionnaires and psychometric tests were completed by all participants, allowing the research to explore factors which were distinctive of those who became actively involved with paramilitary groups versus those who had not. Importantly, the results found no differences between the two groups on a wide range of factors normally associated with radicalisation, including for example the number of family members killed during the conflict. On the contrary, only a small number of significant differences were found between the two groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-73
Number of pages4
JournalCranfield Defence and Security Research Yearbook
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • terrorism
  • terrorist psychology
  • psychology of terrorism
  • radicalisation
  • Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland Troubles

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