Critical Criminology

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 9–30 | Cite as

‘Seeing’ is believing: Positivist terrology, peacemaking criminology, and the northern ireland peace process

  • Kieran McEvoy
  • Brian Gormally


In this essay, the authors seek to draw upon the understanding and critique of positivism within criminological discourse in order to offer one analysis of the British governments’ approach to the Northern Ireland peace process. They argue that this approach has been hampered not just by the political reliance of the John Major government on Ulser Unionist support at Westminster but by a political and ideological approach to the peace process, informed by positivist terrorology, which has lead to an inability to ‘see’ the potential for peace. Offering a brief analysis of one of its leading academic proponents, the authors argue that such a paradigm posits a view of the liberal democratic state as axiomatically legitimate. Politically-motivated violence within such a state is seen as a purely criminal attack upon it, fundamentally inexplicable in terms other than the deviancy of its perpetrators. Thus in this view, politically-motivated violence is only combatable through purely instrumental, technical, and scientific means. By way of contrast to this paradigm, the authors offer an alternative vision, based on the epistemologies of critical and peacemaking criminology which, they argue, offers much greater potential for the prospects of peace in Northern Ireland and similar political conflicts elsewhere.


Civil Society Political Conflict British Government Critical Criminology Peace Process 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Division on Critical Criminology 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kieran McEvoy
    • 1
  • Brian Gormally
  1. 1.Queen’s University of BelfastBelfastUK

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