Department or Program

Political Science

Additional Department or Program (if any)

Political Science

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Stacie Goddard

Additional Advisor(s)

Paul MacDonald

Additional Advisor

Hahrie Han

Additional Advisor

Joseph Joyce


While many scholars have written about ‘spoilers,’ actors committed to the use of violence in an effort to undermine political negotiations, there have been few attempts to systematically test whether theories of spoiling behavior truly effectively explain armed nonstate actors’ use of force. Using a combination of GIS mapping, statistical analysis, and qualitative data gathered from interviews in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I examine the lines of division that formed within Northern Irish paramilitaries during the peace process of the 1990s. By focusing in particular on what I define as intra-movement violence, I examine the way divisions formed and test whether these fissures reflect a moderate-militant divide over peace negotiations. Ultimately, I find that evidence from Northern Ireland is more consistent with an explanation that identifies lines of division relating to intra-movement factors such as local competition or involvement with crime.