Leadership and Historical Opportunity: Comparisons to Other Ethnic Conflicts



In order for world opinion to have significant effects upon the Northern Ireland peace process, it had to influence the actions of leaders involved in negotiating the agreement. Rusciano uses Gormley-Heenan’s notion of “chameleonic leadership,” or leadership that changes depending upon its environment, to map this influence. Rusciano shows how when leaders move between local, regional, and international leadership groups, their chameleonic abilities must come into play. They must adjust to fit in with the group they are addressing, while trying to negotiate and balance the constituencies they represent. He describes a model where leaders had leeway from their constituents within certain boundaries to negotiate; however, leaders had to be careful not to overstep those boundaries and lose support. This balance is complicated by negotiators’ contact with other global leaders, who represented a world opinion dictating that such boundaries had to be expanded to allow for a peace agreement. The influences of leaders, such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Nelson Mandela, among others, are studied to show how this delicate balance was maintained. Rusciano compares the Northern Ireland process to the successful transition out of conflict in South Africa and the unsuccessful transition in Israel/Palestine. In all cases, he shows how the state of world opinion affected the success or failure of these efforts.


Peace Process African National Congress Political Space Peace Negotiation International Legitimacy 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University in LawrenceTownshipUSA

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