Truth, Denial and Transition: Northern Ireland and the Contested Past, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Truth, Denial and Transition

Northern Ireland and the Contested Past, 1st Edition

By Cheryl Lawther


216 pages

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Truth, Denial and Transition: Northern Ireland and the Contested Past makes a unique and timely contribution to the transitional justice field. In contrast to the focus on truth and those societies where truth recovery has been central to dealing with the aftermath of human rights violations, comparatively little scholarly attention has been paid to those jurisdictions whose transition from violent conflict has been marked by the absence or rejection of a formal truth process. This book draws upon the case study of Northern Ireland, where, despite a lengthy debate, the question of establishing a formal truth recovery process remains hotly contested. The strongest and most vocal opposition has been from unionist political elites, loyalist ex-combatants and members of the security forces. Based on empirical research, their opposition is unpicked and interrogated at length throughout this book. Critically exploring notions of national imagination and blamelessness, the politics of victimhood and the tension between traditions of sacrifice and the fear of betrayal, this book is the first substantive effort to concentrate on the opponents of truth recovery rather than its advocates.

This book will interest those studying truth processes and transitional justice in the fields of Law, Politics, and Criminology.


Professor Colin Harvey, Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, Queen's University Belfast:

"Dr Lawther's work is a timely and necessary intervention in discussions of the contested past in Northern Ireland. Her argument has considerable explanatory and normative power and assists greatly in understanding how unionism and loyalism grapples with the legacies of the conflict. This impressive volume is required reading for anyone seeking to understand transitional contexts where formal truth processes are not in place."

Professor John Brewer, Professor of Post Conflict Studies, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Queen's University Belfast:

"Great social science is mostly deeply embedded in personal experience and transitional justice studies is producing a new generation of young scholars struggling to understand the ambivalences of peace and the ambiguities of truth in the wake of some dramatic political transitions at the time of the new millennium. Cheryl Lawther is primary among them. She deals skilfully and intelligently with the problems Northern Ireland has in being reconciled to its past and has produced a first class book. Her work will be greatly admired by academics and lay readers alike."

Professor Kieran McEvoy, Queen's University Belfast:

'This is what top notch transitional justice scholarship looks like. It is a formidable achievement and a very welcome addition to the Routledge Transitional Justice Series'

Table of Contents

Foreword (Professor Kieran Mcevoy), CHAPTER 1: Introduction, CHAPTER 2: Truth, Denial And Blamelessness, CHAPTER 3: Truth, Politics And Victimhood, CHAPTER 4: Truth, Trust And (Re-)Writing The Past, CHAPTER 5: Truth, Confidence And Loyalty, CHAPTER 6: Truth, Sacrifice And Betrayal, CHAPTER 7: Conclusion: Truth, Transition And Political Responsibility, Appendix: List Of Interviewees, Bibliography

About the Author

Cheryl Lawther is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast. Her article: "Securing’ the Past: Policing and the Contest over Truth in Northern Ireland’, British Journal of Criminology, 2010, 50, 3: 455-473 was awarded the Brian Williams Article Prize by the British Society of Criminology in July 2011, in recognition of the best article by a ‘new’ scholar.

About the Series

Transitional Justice

The study of transitional justice has emerged as one of the most diverse and intellectual exciting developments in the social sciences in the last two decades. From its origins in human rights activism and comparative political science the field is increasingly characterised by its geographic and disciplinary breadth. Routledge’s Transitional Justice series publishes innovative work across a range of disciplines working on transitional justice related topics: including law, sociology, criminology, psychology, anthropology, political science, development studies and international relations.

The series includes titles which address larger theoretical questions on transitional justice, including the intersection of notions such as justice, truth, accountability, impunity and the construction of transitional justice knowledge. It also contains critical and theoretically informed empirical work on the workings of institutions such as truth commissions, community based reconciliation, victim empowerment, ex-combatant demobilisation, or regional discussions on practical programmes in particular areas. Finally, the series covers the legal aspects of transitional justice; although, avoiding dry, overly technical or dull legal texts, it specialises in a style of legal scholarship that reflects the energy and vitality of this exciting field.

For further details on the series please contact the Series Editor.

Kieran McEvoy

Professor of Law and Transitional Justice

School of Law

Queens University Belfast


44 (0) 2890973873

[email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Conflict of Laws
LAW / Remedies & Damages
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism