When the Law Makers are the Law Breakers: State Terrorism

Timothy Shanahan

in The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780748635290
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652884 | DOI:
When the Law Makers are the Law Breakers: State Terrorism

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It is frequently assumed that if terrorism is morally wrong, then terrorism practised by the state is necessarily even worse. To evaluate this accusation of state terrorism, and the moral judgement commonly attached to it, reasonable answers must be given to three fundamental questions: What is state terrorism? To what extent has the British government engaged in it in Northern Ireland? Is state terrorism necessarily morally worse than terrorism practised by non-state agents? This chapter argues that although state terrorism has occurred in Northern Ireland, there is little evidence to suggest it has been pursued as a policy. Although there are conceivable situations in which acts of state terrorism can be morally justified, there are vastly more opportunities for it to be morally wrong.

Keywords: state terrorism; Northern Ireland; British government; moral evaluation

Chapter.  10874 words. 

Subjects: UK Politics

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