Ignatieff, Ireland and the 'lesser evil': Some problems with the lessons learnt

Mark McGovern*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In writing The Lesser Evil Michael Ignatieff states that his purpose is to answer the question as to what means democracies can employ to defeat ‘terrorism’ without ‘destroying the values for which they stand’.1 To do so, Ignatieff sought to learn from other terrorist emergencies, including the actions and policies employed by successive British Governments, over three decades, in conducting counter-insurgency strategies in Northern Ireland. The aim of this chapter is critically to analyse Ignatieff’s reading of what policies the British State employed during the Northern Ireland conflict and the lessons Ignatieff appears to have learnt as a result. Ignatieff’s method is one in which he argues for a particular approach to political ethics today, based upon examples from the past, such as that of Northern Ireland.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiscourses and Practices of Terrorism
Subtitle of host publicationInterrogating Terror
EditorsBob Brecher, Mark Devenney, Aaron Winter
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781135156503
ISBN (Print)0203857348, 9780203857342
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2010

Publication series

NameRoutledge Critical Terrorism Studies


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