State violence and the colonial roots of collusion in Northern Ireland

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    This article considers the nature of collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitary organisations during the conflict in Northern Ireland in the context of British counterinsurgency theory and practices in prior colonial campaigns. It briefly outlines the nature, pattern and logic of collusion in Northern Ireland before examining some of the key works of British counterinsurgency theorists – Charles Callwell, Charles Gwynn and Frank Kitson – reflecting on earlier imperial experiences. Collusion is understood as an expedient coercive state practice, premised on a ‘doctrine of necessity’, designed to remove ‘enemies’ and induce fear in a target population via a strategy of assassination in which the appearance of adherence to the rule of law is a political end shaping the specific forms of state violence involved. Such a practice, the author argues, is not an aberration in the tradition of British state counterinsurgency violence, it is exemplary.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-23
    Number of pages21
    JournalRace and Class
    Issue number2
    Early online date14 Jul 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


    • Finucane
    • Kitson
    • Northern Ireland
    • collusion
    • counter-gangs
    • counterinsurgency
    • irregular warfare
    • state violence


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