This paper examines the transition of Sinn Fein, once seen as an extremist front organization for the Irish Republican Army, into the leading voice in the Catholic Irish nationalist community. The paper follows the transitions in Sinn Fein's political strategy and rhetoric, from providing justification for the ongoing military campaign in the 1970s, through its acceptance of the legitimacy of the Irish Republic in the 1980s and to its final repudiation of violence in the wake of the Omagh bombing in 1998. Specific attention is given to the pragmatic leadership of the Belfast faction lead by Gerry Adams. While journalists and other historians have examined Adams' leadership during this transition, this paper updates and re-contextualizes the process in light of new evidence and more than a decade of peace.

Sources used in this paper are primarily newspaper articles of the time and Adams own writings. Additional context was found in the work of other historians and political scientists studying this transformation in the Republican movement. This paper is intended to synthesize and further their work, in the hope of providing an example and insight into how violent revolutionary movements can transition into legitimate participants in the political process.