Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Abstract During its most intense phase from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Northern Ireland conflict witnessed a wide range of mimicry tactics by both Republican and Loyalist armed groups. This chapter surveys the most prominent patterns of mimicry use in the conflict, with a particular focus on code words as an identity signal. Paramilitaries on both sides used mimicry for camouflage (blending in with the civilian population to avoid detection), for defence (notably in the context of prison escapes), and for aggressive purposes (for example to carry out assassinations or collect intelligence). The widespread use of false-flag operations, especially by the Loyalist side, led to the development of complex dynamics surrounding the use of code words as group signatures, a peculiarity of the Northern Ireland conflict in the history of conflict mimicry.

Original publication





Book title

Fight, Flight, Mimic


Oxford University PressOxford

Publication Date



90 - 113