'See No Evil, Hear No Evil': Insidious Paramilitary Violence in Northern Ireland

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Northern Ireland has been variously described as having an 'imperfect peace' in which 'acceptable levels of violence' persist. Despite the endorsement of the main political parties to the principles of 'democracy and non-violence'enshrined in the Belfast Agreement, an insidious and brutalizing form of paramilitary violence continues within communities. The government has opted to 'see no evil, hear no evil' given what is at stake in the wider political process. According to this approach, one must accept certain violent excesses in the interest of moving forward politically. This, however, creates both conceptual and practical problems around the issue of violence in Northern Ireland. By conceding that paramilitaries 'police ' the informal criminal justice system in their areas with political and, in most cases, legal impunity, the government, de facto, defines what is 'an acceptable level of violence'. This paper considers the nature and extent of ongoing paramilitary violence, how it has become enmeshed in the negotiated settlement and the consequences of this politicization of violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-185
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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