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Dancing in the dark: Ecstasy, the dance culture, and moral panic in post ceasefire Northern Ireland


The hiatus caused by the Republican and then Loyalist ceasefires of 1994 left Northern Ireland in a state of flux. The rhythm of ‘the Troubles’ had become constant, predictable, and familiar. Sudden peace usurped these old certainties for many people; not only members of the police and media but politicians, the legal and medical professions, and most certainly, the paramilitaries. Therefore, the cessation of conflict brought with it a respite from bombs and bullets, but also a feeling of inertia and often literal redundancy for many. The author argues that, along with the (temporary) truce, came a sense of unease, a vacuum which had once been filled by violence. In this climate, a moral panic over drug use within youth subculture may have served a variety of hidden agendas.

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The author is indebted to Kieran P. McEvoy, Assistant Director of the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Queen’s University Belfast. This article has benefited greatly from the assistance afforded me by the librarians and staff of the Queen’s University Law Library, Belfast Central Library, BBC Northern Ireland,The Irish Times, The Irish News, The News Letter, The Belfast Telegraph, andFortnight. The informative comments of Rob Phipps at the Health Promotion Agency, Kate McCullough at Dunlewey Substance Advice Centre, and Detective Superintendent Kevin Sheehy of the RUC Drug Squad were invaluable.

A version of this article was awarded the Social Science Research Council Prize 1996 by the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

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Hollywood, B. Dancing in the dark: Ecstasy, the dance culture, and moral panic in post ceasefire Northern Ireland. Critical Criminology 8, 62–77 (1997).

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  • Moral Panic
  • Critical Criminology
  • Pedophilia
  • News Letter
  • Cultural Criminology