By Peter Shirlow
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Extra info for Beyond the Wire: Former Prisoners and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland
It can be utilised to describe prisoners who are otherwise referred to as ‘terrorists’ by either the state which incarcerates them or by other actors who oppose their methods or political ideology. , 2007). The utilisation of the term in Northern Ireland occurred in a context where the acknowledgement of political motivation as an element in terrorist violence has been enshrined in legislation almost since the outbreak of the conflict. From 1972, ‘terrorism’ was defined in successive pieces of Emergency Legislation (relating both to Northern Ireland and Britain) as ‘the use of violence for political ends and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear’.
Despite the historical and contemporary significance of those challenges, comparatively little has been written about the particular Shirlow 01 intro 25 12/11/07 14:44:13 26 Beyond the Wire demands of managing such prisoners. Notwithstanding the immense variety of contexts of and responses to political violence, there are broad commonalities in penal policy which remain detectable. For current purposes, these can be divided into three broad styles of prison management. , 2007). They are ‘reaction, containment and negotiation’ (1969–75); ‘criminalisation, repression and the denial of political motivation’ (1976–81); and ‘managerialism, bureaucratisation and political prisoners as a “scientific” challenge’ (1981 onwards).
The symbolism of such struggles in a hunger strike in part derive from the juxtaposition of the state’s power which is challenged by the willed process of decay of a striking prisoner. Hunger strikes often elicit widespread support and sympathy beyond the naturally supportive constituency of the prisoners. They speak to the commitment and sense of purpose of political prisoners and they undermine the state’s claim to rationality and proportionality (Aretexaga, 1995). In some contexts (including Northern Ireland), all of the complexities of a political conflict may, for a time, become narrowed to a prisoner’s capacity for endurance as those inside and outside wait for his or her death and the inevitable political and social reactions thereafter.
Beyond the Wire: Former Prisoners and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland by Peter Shirlow