Conflict Roots

Mari Fitzduff

Professor and Director of the MA Conflict and Coexistence Programme at Brandeis University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

So it doesn't always work, but what we try and say, for instance is we would say in most of the guerilla groups it's almost impossible because it will keep popping up. You will probably rarely come to the end of suicide bombing in Israel and etc., simply because, as we know in many situations... Take Northern Ireland. The martyrs that develop around the grave become the next problem. Okay, you shoot a couple of perpetrators, and then they have developed their own mythology and the martyrdom becomes sort of an ethos. The myths just develop.

Q: It becomes separate from the initial causes of the conflict?

A: They can actually. This is why the work is incredibly important. We would talk, for instance, to the military and to the British embassies about importing skills to various places they're in, because often what the military is doing is actually counterproductive to what they want themselves. So you have the military creating people who are prepared to give their lives up to a cause. My own personal work showed that there was three reasons people became paramilitaries.

One was mother's milk stuff. It was in the family. That would be very much the Adams and McGuinness. They could not have been republicans, given the context and the people they were.

The second was very much an intervention with the local security forces or their folk being blown up by the IRA. All of these interventions often spawned a reaction, which actually of course increased the number of people who were prepared to use violence.

The third one was very much the male thing, particularly among the loyalists. Sort of the need for meaning, particularly for disenfranchised, unempowered young men.