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Making War on Terror? Global Lessons from Northern Ireland

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In place of the simple modelling employed in anti-terrorist legal discourse, this article posits an interactive model of the relationship between the state and violent political actors, exploring law's role in both the repression and mobilisation of challengers. Drawing on social movement theory, it hypothesises a process of ‘legally implicated mobilisation’ which takes account both of law's presence and its partial absence in ‘legal grey zones’ during violent conflict, and it suggests how law may impact upon key elements of the mobilisation process. The hypothesis is applied to qualitative data from Northern Ireland on violent challengers. The data point to the importance of ‘messaging’ about law in the state of exception, supporting claims that law can have a ‘damping’ effect on violent conflict. The relationship between repression and violence is partly symbiotic, and in the global ‘war on terror,’ prisoner-abuse may have a mobilising effect on violent challengers.

Keywords: Mobilisation; Northern Ireland; Repression; Social movement; State of exception; Terrorism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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