The Spectacle of Terrorism in Northern Irish Culture

in Critical Survey
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Few aspects of Northern Irish political culture are as denuded as those that attempt to locate and understand the terrorist act. From the exasperation of Margaret Thatcher’s outburst at the time of the Hunger Strikes that ‘it is not political, it is a crime’, to the exhausted freedom fighter/terrorist binary opposition recently pressed back into service by Peter Mandelson, terrorism has consistently been perceived as an act that defies the realm of civic discourse. Indeed, it has been the traditional role of language in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist atrocity to present itself as unable to capture the overwhelming materiality of the event itself. What, so the argument runs, can words offer in the face of such violence? Understood as such, every terrorist outrage becomes unspeakable.