The role of bridging and linking social capital in the development of the Northern Ireland women's movement after the 1998 Peace Agreement

  • Sarah Priest

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis uses a feminist social capital approach to explore how the women’s movement has sought to position itself in a post-Good Friday/Belfast Agreement Northern Ireland in order to influence policy. Scholars have charted the development of a coherent women’s movement during the Troubles; this thesis frames this development and their ability to establish bridging ties in a conflict and post-conflict State using a social capital analysis. It builds on existing scholarship about the development and structure of the Women’s Coalition to argue that this was an attempt to replicate bridging ties at the level of elected politics in order to gender democracy and advance equality. Following the NIWC’s electoral failure, this study identifies and evaluates the women’s movement’s strategic re-direction to effect greater gender equality through policy influence, based upon the development of strong bridging social capital founded upon cross-movement coalitions in the context of a gender neutral State narrative and understanding of equality primarily framed in sectarian terms.The thesis argues that the women’s movement works to establish linking social capital as a means of accessing policy-makers and asserting influence at the Northern Ireland, Westminster, European and UN levels to advance their agenda. This analysis is augmented by the role of leadership agency in ‘activating’ bridging and linking ties; a core group of leaders are at the heart of elaborating and advancing the movement’s strategic engagement with policy-making through a flexible, networked structure. This thesis demonstrates the value in applying a feminist social capital approach to an analysis of women’s movement efforts to work collectively to influence and gender policy-making. The role of movement leaders is crucial in converting social capital into strategic action for social change, but can create fragility by rendering the movement highly dependent on key individuals and hindering its ability to sustain policy-making influence.
Date of Award9 Jul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAnna Bull (Supervisor) & Hanna Diamond (Supervisor)

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