Department or Program
From 1971 to 1975, per the Special Powers Act, internment was introduced to Northern Ireland for the fourth time that century. To combat the Irish Republican Army’s intensifying guerilla campaign, suspected radicals were arrested en masse, detained without trial, and interrogated. While this response was not unprecedented, the use of specialized interrogation techniques (called ‘the five techniques’) against detainees certainly was. Allegations of ‘torture’ against the British security forces quickly surfaced, setting into motion a complex discourse amongst government officials, journalists, activists, and everyday people within and outside Northern Ireland. This contentious discourse relied heavily on conflicting, subjective standards of morality, necessity, and expediency, but was not the only mechanism in place to scrutinize this complicated ethical dilemma. The evolving global human rights discourse also offered legal structures capable of interpreting and condemning acts perpetrated by States against their people(s), one being the European Convention on Human Rights, vested with a Commission and Court for its enforcement. The 1978 ECtHR ruling in Ireland v. United Kingdom revealed that the public conception of torture (its ‘special stigma’) factored significantly into an international legal decision, a precedent that would have considerable ramifications for UK and US policy post-9/11. While the political contexts of the Troubles and the global ‘war on terror’ are not interchangeable, an examination of bureaucratic responses to these moments offers important insights into how public opinion, ethics, and governmentality intersect within a so-called ‘state of emergency,’ with fundamental human rights and key liberal-democratic principles often sacrificed in the process.
Level of Access
Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]
Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Arts
Thompson, Bridget McBride, "A History of Contested and Constructed Boundaries: Tracing the Torture Discourse from Northern Ireland's 'State of Exception' in the 1970s to the Global 'War on Terror'" (2022). Honors Theses. 414.
Number of Pages