Gender and the Politics of Justice in the Northern Ireland Peace Process: Considering Róisín McAliskey


Whitaker, Robin. 2008. “Gender and the Politics of Justice in the Northern Ireland Peace Process: Considering Róisín McAliskey.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 15 (1): 1–30.

Author: Robin Whitaker


This essay explores reactions to the 1996-1997 incarceration of Róisín McAliskey, a young Irish republican, pregnant at the time of her arrest. The case revealed tensions and contradictions in the politics of gender, national identity, and reconciliation at a tentative stage in the Northern Ireland peace process. Special attention is given to the negotiation of the case by the politically diverse Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and other activists who worked to forge broad-based support campaigns. Along with reactions to them, these efforts were diagnostic of the challenges of developing new politics during this transitional period. These included prospects for new gender-based alliances as well as the potential and the limitations of human rights and political recognition to contribute to projects of reconciliation. For some activist women, the McAliskey case was unsettling to their own sense of political identity, a disruption that may be understood as symptomatic of the intersubjective quality of recognition. It suggests that, although demands for recognition are often most salient in ethnic or nationalist "conflict zones," the dilemmas attached to extending recognition may be especially acute in just such contexts, where both political subjectivity and physical safety have often hinged on avoiding ambiguity. Similarly, human rights are frequently presented as vehicles for peacemaking. When the state's legitimacy is the focus of conflict, however, demands for human rights often appear as attacks on the state and, by implication, those who identify with it.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Justice, Transitional Justice, Peace Processes, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2008

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