Idir Eatarthu is Achrann. The Framing of Women’s Agency in Northern Ireland’s Counterterrorism Legislative Discourse during the Troubles (1968-1998)

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McCall Magan, Ríon
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Global Campus of Human Rights
Homer’s pithy phrase that war is comprised of ‘men killing and man being killed’ aptly illustrates the historically dominant discourse surrounding armed conflict and political violence, with constructions of male gender armed with agency and equated with warriors. Subsequently, the female gender holds a domestic and voiceless role, with any capacity to exercise agency discounted. The sustained exclusion of women’s voices and experiences impacts our general understanding of violence, including political violence, and also how we substantially counter it. These narratives have also been utilised to justify and legitimise states involvement in conflict, especially since the era of the War on Terror. In light of these considerations, this thesis explores how women’s agency has been framed in the discourse surrounding the Northern Irish counterterrorism legislation during the Troubles (1968-98). It argues that the government’s approach to countering the political violence was implemented and can be seen in three distinct phases, namely: reactive containment (1968-75); criminalisation (1976-81); and, finally, managerialism (1981-98). Through employing the methwwodologies of critical discourse analysis and critical policy analysis, the framing of women’s agency can be seen to evolve in parallel to these three diverging phases of the conflict. Though women exercised their capacity to politically and morally challenge power in each of these phases of the Northern Irish conflict, the British government framed them as actors who harboured no agency. Rather, within the state’s discourse, they were framed as illegitimate and invalid actors of political violence. Hence, the women faced a form of double subjugation in which they were oppressed for both their political ideology and gender by the state’s counterterrorism legislative discourse. Keywords: counterterrorism; women; agency; Northern Ireland; discourse; power.
Second semester University: University of Hamburg.
Northern Ireland, terrorism, political violence, participation