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OVERVIEW: This excerpt is taken from the introduction of Cleos Honors Thesis. Her thesis
can be located online in Elon Universitys Belk Library Digital Collections at:


This study examines the multifaceted process by which two Western European
ethnonationalist terrorist organizations, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) and the Irish Republican
Army (IRA), strategically renounced terrorism to advance their nationalist policy goals. This
project compares the two terrorist organizations, chosen based on their historical similarities,
through a case-study structure examining the progression of how and why both the IRA and ETA
abandoned terrorist tactics. The case analyzes specific events under three larger categories: 1)
domestic political context, 2) international political context, and 3) the role of the public opinion
and the media. Ultimately, this study finds that the most significant factors that influenced the
IRA and ETA to renounce violence include: the emergence and intensification of global
terrorism, decreased public support, and the search for political legitimacy through the formation
of pro-independence political wings. The findings highlight the importance of the link between
the political participation of both terrorist organizations and the subsequent decline of political
violence. To this end, this paper seeks to contribute to existing literature on how terrorist groups
end by offering policy relevant generalizations explaining why these groups sought alternatives
to violence. These findings will potentially provide policymakers with policy-oriented
suggestions on how governments can most effectively address domestic and ethonationalist
terrorism through exclusively peaceful strategies.
Deeply rooted in Europes political history, ethnonational conflict undermined stability
for centuries and pushed Europe to the forefront of ethnopolitical and nationalist research (Gat
and Yaaqovsn 2013). In this European political climate, historical grievances flourished and
often culminated into violent conflicts threatening regional security and stability. European
homegrown terrorist organizations have long been subjects of academic research, particularly
after the rise in ethnonational and separatist movements in the mid 1960s and 1970s. The rise of
these movements demonstrated that long-standing grievances have been a source of European
terrorism (Henderson 2010, 38) (Hoffman 1998, 70). In recent decades, European political
agendas [moved] towards internationalism, not regionalism, threatening ethnic and social
solidarity among indigenous European communities and offering an explanation for the
complementary emergence of ethnonational and domestic terrorism (Shepard 2002). Both the
IRA in the Northern Ireland region and the Basque terrorist organization in Northern Spain, ETA
carried out the majority of their terrorist attacks in the decade between the 1970s and 1980s.
During this time, scholars agreed that these politically motivated European ethnic conflicts
seemed insoluble as terrorist violence continued to escalate, despite governmental
counterterrorist efforts (Darby 2003, 39). However, during the 1990s, a series of multilateral
peace talks resulted in the culmination of the celebrated Good Friday Agreement, which marked
the beginning of the end to the IRAs strategic use of violence. Examining the factors that
pushed the IRA to an official ceasefire is a valuable undertaking because the concepts critical to
the end of the IRA can be potentially evaluated and applied for their relevance to ETA, which as
an organization closely parallels the IRA in terms of its operational capabilities and strategic
motives. A limited number of studies have previously been conducted comparing the IRA with
ETA ; however, the literature does not account for the contemporary changes in the Basque
Peace Process nor does it focus exclusively on the closing phases of both groups. This Honors
thesis is timely given that the ETA is currently seeking political legitimacy as an armed terrorist
organization abiding by an active cease-fire agreement. Thus, this thesis project seeks to fill an
existing void in an understudied area of the literature through a comparative case analysis. The
conclusions offer policymakers with policy-linked suggestions directed towards providing
ethnonationalist terrorist organizations with the democratic means to resolve conflict peacefully.
In recent years, former President George W. Bush publically declared, no nation can
negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death
(Mark Perry 2010). The strategy of negotiating with terrorists receives explicit moral
condemnation on the surface, yet the historical record indicates that governments, even
democracies, do indeed talk with terrorists, further, significant reductions in violence and even
organizational dissolution have been observed to result from such engagement (Kurth Cronin
2009, 35). Terrorist organizations are fundamentally and inherently political, perpetrating
violence with the end of goal of attaining a political aim (Hoffman 1998, 3). To this end, this
study seeks to contribute to the growing discussion of terrorism-focused literature by examining
how a contemporary terrorist organization renounces violence in order to pursue its policy goals
through exclusively peaceful and politically engaged initiatives. In the context of real world
empirical data, this research area is significant because evidence illustrates that nearly half of
past terrorist organizations have ended through peaceful negotiation and political interaction
(Jones and Libicki 2008). Research on how terrorist organizations end merits further
examination because given the number and variety of global terror threats, it is important to
understand the historical factors contributing to a terrorist organizations peaceful termination.
The study proceeds as follows after this introduction, Part I. The first section following
the introduction presents Part II, a thorough review of existing literature in the field of terrorism
and ethno-politics, specifically examining previous scholarship on Western European terrorist
movements and a brief overview of the past research that scholars in political science have
generated. Part III describes the research methodology specifically chosen for this study, and
conceptualizes key terms. Thereafter, Part IV provides an historical background of the IRA along
with an accompanying analysis, as this additional context is necessary in order to place this study
within the broader hierarchy of terrorism research. The case presentation and analysis of ETA is
presented next in Part V. Part VI offers a cumulative analysis, in the form of a discussion,
comparing the lessons learned from the two cases, offering policy relevant generalizations
regarding the process by which the IRA was encouraged to pursue democratic and peaceful
alternatives to violence, and how these lessons apply to the case of ETA. This paper concludes in
Part VII.