Tackling the terrorists: the experience of internment without trial in Northern Ireland

Doherty, M.A. 2015. Tackling the terrorists: the experience of internment without trial in Northern Ireland. Journal on European History of Law. 6 (1), pp. 76-83.

TitleTackling the terrorists: the experience of internment without trial in Northern Ireland
AuthorsDoherty, M.A.
Abstract

In August 1971, the devolved Stormont administration in Northern Ireland introduced internment without trial of those suspected of involvement in IRA terrorism. Ever since, the policy has been regarded as an abject failure. This article will reassess many of the key questions about internment: why did the Northern Ireland government introduce it when it did? Why did the Westminster government agree to a measure without parallel in British peacetime history? Why did it fail, when it had worked before? Was internment always doomed, or only because it was badly implemented? What was the alternative? How does the liberal democratic state defend itself against violent subversion without itself resorting to brutality and violence? This article is based on archival research in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and on interviews with former internees, politicians and civil servants, and former members of the security forces. It suggests that internment was a relatively humane and honest policy and might, in different circumstances, have spared Northern Ireland thirty years of murder and mayhem.

KeywordsCounter-terrorism; internment without trial; Irish Republican Army; Northern Ireland; 'troubles'.
JournalJournal on European History of Law
Journal citation6 (1), pp. 76-83
ISSN2042-6402
Year2015
PublisherSTS Science Centre Ltd.
Publication dates
Published2015

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