Idir Eatarthu is Achrann : the framing of women's agency in Northern Ireland's counterterrorism legislative discourse during the Troubles (1968-1998)
McCall Magan, Ríon
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Homer’s pithy phrase that war is comprised of “men killing and man being killed” (as cited by Ní Aoláin, 2013, p.1086) aptly illustrates the historically dominant discourse surrounding armed conflict and political violence. Due to contemporary constructions of gender norms, man is equated with a warrior and women with a victim during conflict, women’s capacity to exercise agency is discounted. Such narratives have been utilised to justify and legitimate states involvement in conflict, especially since the era of the War on Terror (Khalid, 2011). The sustained exclusion of women’s voices and experiences however impact our general understanding of political violence but also how we can substantially counter it. In light of these considerations, this thesis explores how women’s agency was framed in the discourse surrounding the Northern Irish counterterrorism legislation during the Troubles (1968-1998). The governments approach to countering the political violence was implemented in three distinct phases, namely: reactive containment (1968-1975); criminalisation (1976-1981); and, finally, managerialism (1981-1998). Though women exercised their capacity to politically and morally challenge power in each of these phases of the conflict, the government framed them as actors who harboured no agency. Rather, within the state’s discourse they were merely framed as illegitimate and invalid actors of political violence. Keywords: Counterterrorism; Women; Agency; Northern Ireland; Discourse; Power.