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The paper examines the changing legal status of Sinn Féin and its successor Republican Clubs, which were, respectively, banned in 1956 and 1967, and legalized in the mid-1970s. Moving beyond the existing party ban literature’s focus on constitutional foundations and formal contours of government policy I examine deliberative processes, discursive strategies and elite and citizen preferences on party bans. To this end, I examine three hypotheses generated in research on party bans in Spain that focus on the preferences of veto players, securitization and desecuritization discourses and citizen preferences. In addition to addressing an under-researched question in the study of conflict in Northern Ireland, the article aims to develop more robust statements on the conditions under which democracies ban political parties. In a contribution securitization theory, the article argues that an institutionalist operationalization of securitization can help account for success and failure of securitization moves and sharpen conceptualization of the relationship between securitization agents and multiple audiences.