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Researching Paramilitary Violence in Northern Ireland

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Feenan, Dermot (2002) Researching Paramilitary Violence in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Social Research Methodology , 5 (2). pp. 147-163. [Journal article]

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URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13645570110045972

DOI: 10.1080/13645570110045972

Abstract

This paper examines methodological challenges in researching paramilitary violence, withparticular reference to the author’s examination of paramilitary ‘punishment’ activity inNorthern Ireland. The author notes the dearth of published work on methodological issuesin social science research of violence generally. The range of major qualitative studies onparamilitary violence is presented and discussed. The paper explains the context ofconducting such research in Northern Ireland in terms of the broader political conflict. Itthen examines several key challenges in researching paramilitary violence based primarilyon the author’s research. These included maintenance of political sensitivity, good faith andcautious security protocols. Potential legal and ethical difficulties were addressed throughdesign of interview schedules that minimized risk of disclosure of the names or identities ofthose subject to ‘punishment’ or the perpetrators of offences. Those subject to paramilitary‘punishment’ proved ‘hard-to-reach’, requiring greater time and effort in meeting the initialtarget sample, and a consequent need to research across a wide range of voluntary andcommunity-based organizations. While risks of physical injury were minimal, successfulresearch in the field was achieved through transparency about the impartiality and fundingindependence of the researchers, and a strategic sensitivity towards community and political backgrounds.

Item Type:Journal article
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Law
ID Code:11048
Deposited By:Mr Dermot Feenan
Deposited On:04 Feb 2010 14:29
Last Modified:03 Sep 2010 10:38

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