Conflict-related prisoners
The perpetual trap of criminalisation
in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday
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The most controversial provision of the Good Friday Agreement was the decision to free all prisoners belonging to paramilitary organisations observing ceasefires. In this chapter, we trace the experience of former combatants released on licence under Northern Ireland’s political settlement. The attempt to move beyond conflict in the region entailed a strategy of ‘Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration’. While the first two of these imperatives have been pursued largely successfully, there have been serious problems with the implementation of the third. Former combatants remain subject to intense vetting which often precludes them from certain jobs, and in so doing leaves them on the margins of Northern Irish society. The multiple ways in which ex-prisoners are stigmatically shamed impacts not only on them but also on their wider family networks. As we illustrate in detail, the current vetting procedures at times ensure that individuals are barred from employment because of their familial connection to former combatants they may never have met. While the success of the Northern Irish peace process required the reintegration of ex-prisoners, the ongoing attempts to stigmatise them means that there are many former paramilitaries who have made a real contribution to maintaining the political settlement, but who have nonetheless been condemned to material poverty and mental illness.

Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday

Lost futures and new horizons in the ‘long peace’


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