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Dr Thomas Leahy

Dr Thomas Leahy

Senior Lecturer in Politics

School of Law and Politics

Welsh speaking
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

I re-joined Cardiff University in September 2017 as a lecturer in British and Irish politics and contemporary history.

My areas of specialism include:

-the Northern Ireland conflict and intelligence war

-Irish republicanism since 1969 (Sinn Fein and the IRA)

-Politics in and about the island of Ireland

-Post-conflict reconciliation and dealing with the past comparisons with Northern Ireland

-Comparative peace processes with Northern Ireland

I am a Welsh learner.

My book the Intelligence War Against the IRA was published with Cambridge University Press in paperback and hardback in 2020. It has been shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize in May 2021 and has sold over 1,900 copies.  

Biography

Education and qualifications:

2020 - Promoted to Senior Lecturer.

2019- Higher Education Academy, Fellow.

2015 – History PhD, King’s College London.

2011 – Master of Research in Modern History (Distinction), King’s College London.

2010 – BA (honours) History (First-class), King’s College London

Honours and awards

2021 - My book Intelligence War Against the IRA has been shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize.

2021 - Certification of commendation from The Learned Society of Wales as part of their Dillwyn Medal Award Panel for Early Career Researchers, May 2021.

2020 - Political Studies Association UK Research and Development Funding (with Dr Kirkup and Dr Fahey).

2019 - Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation grant for impact research.

2019 - Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation grant for the Irish Historians in Britain Conference (2021)

2016-2018 – Economic and Social Research Council impact initiator and accelerator account (with Dr Huw Bennett)

2016-17 – Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow at the National University of Ireland Galway, Republic of Ireland.

2016 – Scouloudi historical research award, London.

2014 - Political Studies Association Ireland postgraduate bursary award to present at their annual conference in Galway, Ireland.

2013 – King’s College London continuation scholarship for PhD studies, London.

2011 – The Worshipful Company of Bowyer’s best MA dissertation prize on a military historical theme, King’s College London.

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Political Studies Association Ireland.
  • Member of the Political Studies Association.
  • Member of the European Consortium of Political Research Political Violence Section.
  • Member of the British International Studies Association.
  • Member of the Secrecy and Ignorance Network (SPIN) with GW4 partner institutions.

Academic positions

I was an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow until September 2017 at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Republic of Ireland. In 2016, I worked for Cardiff University and taught a third-year module on the Northern Ireland conflict. I was awarded my History PhD at King’s College London in September 2015.

Speaking engagements

Select conference and seminar papers presented at:

  • Irish Conference of Historians, Galway University (online), 2021.
  • The UK in a Changing Europe early careers researcher event, Cardiff University, 2020.
  • Divided Societies conference, Inter-city University, Dubrovnik, 2017 and 2019.
  • Centre for Intelligence and International Security conference, Gregynog, November 2018.
  • Violence Studies conference, Oxford University, November 2018.
  • British International Studies Association annual conference, Bath, June 2018.
  • The Political Studies Association UK annual conferences, 2018 and 2020.
  • The European Consortium Political Research annual conferences, 2017 and 2020.
  • Political Studies Association Ireland annual conferences, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020.   
  • Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, November 2015.
  • The Irish historians in Britain annual conferences, Edinburgh, Newcastle, 2014 and 2018.

I have also presented my research to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in June 2019.

Impact activities 

  • August 2019 to present – Awarded by Irish DFAT Reconciliation fund to support impact work with Irish/UK politicians and victims/survivor groups on dealing with Troubles legacy.
  • June 2019 – Presented research on the Irish state and dealing with Northern Ireland conflict legacy to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Implementing the Good Friday Agreement.
  • November 2018 - Awarded ESRC Festival of Social Sciences funding to host two panel debates at Cardiff University on ‘Why did peace emerge in Northern Ireland?’ with an Irish republican and former British Armed Forces. 
  • 2016-2018 - Awarded two ESRC impact account awards with Dr Bennett for the impact study on ‘Dealing with Northern Ireland’s Difficult Past’ working with various governments, victims/survivors groups, former political prisoners and politicians across the UK and Irish isles. 
  • Co-organised with Professor Ó Dochartaigh the ‘Dealing with conflict legacy in Ireland’ event in Dublin, September 2018. 

Committees and reviewing

-Grant reviewer ESRC

-Grant reviewer for the AHRC

-Peer reviewer for Irish Political Studies

Publications

2020

2019

2018

2015

Teaching

Undergraduate level

- First-year undergraduate, 'Introduction to Government study skills'

-Final-year undergraduate, 'Bombs, Bullets and Ballot Boxes: The Northern Ireland Conflict'

Masters

-Conflict and Peace: Northern Ireland, 1969 to 2020 (IR masters students)

-Politics in and about Northern Ireland since 1998 (with Dr Jonathan Kirkup) (Politics and Public Policy and Welsh Politics students)

I have supervised various undergraduate and masters students for their dissertations.

PhD

I supervise three PhD students who research locally raised security forces during the Northern Ireland conflict, regional conflict dynamics, and Northern Ireland Assembly and Irish Government relations since 1998.

I am happy to supervise research students in the following areas:

  • Any aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process.
  • Northern Irish politics since 1969 (including contemporary themes).
  • Dealing with the past and post-conflict reconciliation in relation to Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • The intelligence war in Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • Peace processes and negotiations to end small-scale conflicts in relation to Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • British-Irish relations.
  • Irish Republicanism (IRA and/or Sinn Fein).

My previous research focuses on key aspects of the Northern Irish conflict and intelligence war between the Irish Republican Army and British state and politics in Northern Ireland since 1969.

My research has engaged with, and will continue to evaluate, wider questions in conflict and peace studies using Northern Ireland as a case study. I also am researching key aspects of politics in and about the island of Ireland since 1998 with my colleagues Dr Kirkup and Dr Fahey.

Book

My first book The Intelligence War Against the IRA was published recently in paperback and hardback with Cambridge University Press. I conducted research including interviews with various conflict participants to provide a regional evaluation of whether British intelligence forced the Irish Republican Army (IRA) into peace by 1998. I suggest various reasons why British intelligence did not force the IRA into peace. One of the key takeaway messages from the book for comparative studies is that talking to armed groups with at least a sizeable minority of political support was crucial to helping peace emerge in N.Ireland. The book has sold over 1,900 copies across the UK, Ireland and further afield since 2020.

My book has been shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize 2021. https://blog.royalhistsoc.org/2021/05/17/rhs-whitfield-book-prize-the-2021-shortlist/

A short video about the book is available here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTmlq_Ra0xA

Publications

The Intelligence War Against the IRA (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2020)

'The politics of Troubles memories in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, 1998 to 2018' in Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research (2019)

Thomas Leahy and Niall Ó Dochartaigh, ‘Citizenship on the ethnic frontier: nationality, migration and rights in Northern Ireland since 1920’, in Steven G. Ellis (ed.), Enfranchising Ireland?: Identity, Citizenship and State (Royal Irish Academy, 2018)

Thomas Leahy, 'The influence of informers and agents on Provisional Irish Republican Army military strategy and British state counter-insurgency strategy, 1976-1994', in Twentieth Century British History (2015) Volume 26, Issue 1, 122-146.

I use a range of interview, archival, memoir and other research methods in my research.

Current research projects include:

-Informers and conflict legacy with Eleanor Leah Williams (Queens University Belfast).

-IRA cessations and British withdrawal with Professor Niall Ó Dochartaigh (NUI Galway)

-The Irish state and dealing with conflict legacy

-Politics in and about Northern Ireland since 1998 (with Dr Jonathan Kirkup (Cardiff) and Dr Kevin Fahey (Swansea)).

Impact work

I am currently collaborating with colleagues and also external stakeholders in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who participated or observed the Northern Irish conflict to ensure that my research achieves a significant impact beyond academia, particularly in relation to debates about dealing with conflict-legacy on the island of Ireland.

I have received funding for impact and research from the Political Studies Association UK, Economic and Social Research Council, the Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Government of Ireland Fellowship, the Scouloudi Foundation, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Reconciliation Fund, Cardiff University and King’s College London.

Currently, I am investigating the role of the Irish state in dealing with conflict legacy on the island of Ireland. I engage with victims/survivors, political parties north and south, alongside British and Irish governments and security forces on this topic.

Impact work has included presenting my research to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in June 2019: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_the_implementation_of_the_good_friday_agreement/2019-06-20/3/

Media contributions

My research has been reviewed in various media outlets. I have also discussed my work in multiple media outles including the examples below:

-Radio discussion about my Intelligence War Against the IRA book on RTE History Hour (December 2020) - https://www.rte.ie/radio1/the-history-show/podcasts/

- 'British intelligence did not force the IRA into peace', Irish Times, 12 June 2020

-'Did British intelligence force the IRA into peace?', RTÉ Brainstorm, 12 February 2020

-'Irish Government urged to investigate Troubles Killings' in the Republic', Belfast Telegraph, 20 June 2019

Supervision

I am happy to supervise research students in the following areas:

  • Any aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process.
  • Northern Irish politics since 1969 (including contemporary themes)
  • Dealing with the past and post-conflict reconciliation in relation to Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • The intelligence war in Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • Peace processes and negotiations to end small-scale conflicts in relation to Northern Ireland or in comparison with Northern Ireland.
  • British-Irish relations.
  • Irish Republicanism (Sinn Fein and/or the IRA)