Engendering transitional justice: questions of absence and silence

Eilish Rooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The globalisation of transitional justice as a framework for the resolution of conflicts is a remarkable phenomenon of the post-Cold War era (Bell and Craig, 2000). In different contexts this framework has significant consequences for women’s equality. This article asserts that a conceptualisation of gender that intersects with other dimensions of inequality in state formation provides an important tool for understanding contemporary transitional justice processes. This complex tool of intersectional analysis is used to explore the issue of women’s equality in Northern Ireland’s transition. This is applied to the problems of women’s absence from negotiations and the silence in these negotiations on matters to do with women’s day-to-day lives. The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and the enactment of the equality legislation enacted in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 are the textual sites of analysis. These documents comprise the formal transitional framework for Northern Ireland. The article examines the theoretical tensions and practical implications inherent in universal claims for women’s equality in a situation where recognition of ‘difference’ is enshrined in both the equality legislation and the mechanisms for future democratic representation. The article concludes by suggesting that transitional justice discourse can benefit from the theoretical challenges posed by intersectionality and that social stability in NI and in other conflicted societies may be strengthened through addressing the corrosive impacts of inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-187
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007

Bibliographical note

Reference text: ABU ZNEID, Jihad (1997) ‘Women, Children and Housing Rights: The Case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories’, in Centre for Women’s Studies (eds.) Women and the Politics of Peace: Contributions to a Culture of Women’s Resistance. Zagreb: Centre for Women’s Studies, pp. 57–63.

ALISON, M.H. (2003) ‘ ‘‘We are fighting for the women’s liberation also’’: A Comparative Study of Female Combatants in the Nationalist Conflicts in Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland’, unpublished thesis, Queen’s University Belfast.

ARETXAGA, B. (1997) Shattering Silence: Women, Nationalism, and Political Subjectivity in Northern Ireland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Beijing Platform (1995) Fourth World Conference on Women Beijing Delcaration Available online at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm (last accessed 23 March 2007).

BELL, Christine (2000) Peace Agreements and Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

BELL, Christine, CAMPBELL, Colm and NI´ AOLA´ IN, Fionnuala (2004) ‘Justice Discourses in Transition’, Social and Legal Studies, 13(3): 305–28.

BELL, Christine and CRAIG, Elizabeth (2000) ‘A Decade of Peace Agreements’, in Christine Bell, Peace Agreements and Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 323–74.

BELL, Desmond (1990) Acts of Union: Youth Culture and Sectarianism in Northern Ireland. London: MacMillan Education Ltd.

BRITTAIN, Victoria (2003) ‘The Impact of War on Women’, Race & Class, 44(4): 41–51.

BUTLER, J. (2002) ‘Explanation and Exoneration, or What We Can Hear’, Social Text 72, 20(3): 177–88.

CAJ (Committee for the Administration of Justice) (2006) Equality in Northern Ireland: The Rhetoric and the Reality. Belfast: Shanways.

CHOMSKY, Noam (1998) ‘Power in the Global Arena’, New Left Review 230: 3–27.

CLEARY, Joe (2003) ‘ ‘‘Misplaced Ideas’’? Colonialism, Location, and Dislocation in Irish Studies’, in Clare Carroll and Patricia King (eds.), Ireland and Postcolonial Theory. Cork: Cork University Press, pp. 16–45.

CONAGHAN, Joanne (2000) ‘Reassessing the Feminist Theoretical Project in Law’, Journal of Law and Society, 27(3): 351–85.

CONAGHAN, Joanne (2002) ‘Book Review’, Feminist Legal Studies 10: 177–83.

CONAGHAN, Joanne (2007) ‘Following the Path of Equality Through Law: Reflections on Baker et al., Equality: from Theory to Action’, Res Publica: A Journal of Legal and Social Philosophy (forthcoming).

CONNELL, R.W. (1995) Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity.

CONNELL, R.W. (2005) ‘Change among the Gatekeepers: Men, Masculinities, and Gender Equality in the Global Arena’, Signs 30(3): 1801–25.

COULTER, C. (1993) The Hidden Tradition: Feminism, Women and Nationalism in Ireland. Cork: Cork University Press.

CULLEN OWENS, Rosemary (1984) Smashing Times: A History of the Irish Women’s Suffrage Movement 1889–1992. Dublin: Attic Press.

ELLIOTT, Sydney and FLAX, W.D. (1999) Northern Ireland: A Political Directory: 1968–1999. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.

HASSIM, S. (1993) ‘Family, Motherhood and Zulu Nationalism: The Politics of the Inkatha Women’s Brigade’, Feminist Review, 43: 1–25.

HILL–COLLINS, P. (2004) ‘Some Group Matters: Intersectionality, Situated Standpoints, and Black Feminist Thought’, Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1998; reprinted in L. Richardson V. Taylor and N. Whittier (eds.), Feminist Frontiers 6th edn, 1983. Boston: McGraw–Hill, pp. 66–84.

HILLYARD, P., ROLSTON, B., and TOMLINSON, M. (2005) Poverty and Conflict in Ireland: An International Perspective. Dublin: Combat Poverty Agency.

KNAPP, G.–A. (2004) ‘Race, Class, Gender: Reclaiming Baggage in Fast–travelling theories . . . ’, keynote presented at European Intertexts Conference: Women’s Writing in English as Part of a European Fabric, Hungary.

LISTER, Ruth (1997) Citizenship: Feminist Perspectives. New York: New York University Press.

LORENTZEN, L.A. and TURPIN, J. (eds.) (1998) The Women and War Reader. New York and London: New York University Press.

MCKITTERICK, D., KELTERS, S., FEENEY, B., and THORNTON, C. (1999) Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.

MCMINN, J. (2000) ‘The Changers and The Changed: An Analysis of Women’s Community Education Groups in the North and South of Ireland’, unpublished thesis, University College Dublin.

MOORE, R. (1993) ‘Proper Wives, Orange Maidens or Disloyal Subjects: Situating the Equality Concerns of Protestant Women in Northern Ireland’, unpublished thesis, University College Dublin.

MOORE, T., BARRY, R., BETTS, J. and THOMPSON, P. (2002) Gender Equality in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Assembly Research Paper 28/02, April; Northern Ireland Office Research and Library Services.

NI´ AOLA´ IN, Fionnuala (2006) ‘Political Violence and Gender During Times of Transition’, Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 15(3): 829–49.

NI´ AOLA´ IN, Fionnuala and TURNER, Catherine (forthcoming) ‘Gender, Truth, and Transition’ (copy on file with the author).

O’SHEA, B. (2005) Women and the Implementation of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, Transitional Justice Working Report: University of Ulster. Available online at www.transitionaljustice.ulster. ac.uk (last accessed 22 March 2007).

ROBINSON, Mary (1992) Striking a Balance, The Allen Lane Foundation Lecture.

ROONEY, Eilish (1997) ‘Women in Party Politics and Local Groups: Findings from Belfast’, in Anne Byrne and Madeleine Leonard (eds.), Women and Irish Society: A Sociological Reader. Belfast: Beyond the Pale.

ROONEY, Eilish (2006) ‘Women’s Equality in Northern Ireland’s Transition: Intersectionality in Theory and Place’, Feminist Legal Studies, 14(3): 353–75.

ROONEY, Eilish and WOODS, Margaret (1995) Women in Community and Politics: A Belfast Study. Belfast: Centre for Research on Women, University of Ulster.

SCOTT, J.W. (2001) ‘FantasyEcho: History and theConstructionof Identity’, Critical Inquiry,Winter, 127/2. Available online at http://www.uchicago.edu/research/jnl–crit–inq/issues/v27/v27n2.scott.html (last accessed 27 November 2006).

SHARONI, Simona (1995) Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance. Syracuse NY: Laurence Hill Books.

SHUTTLEWORTH, I. and GREEN, A. (2004) ‘Labour Market Change in Northern Ireland’, in B. Osborne and I. Shuttleworth (eds.), Fair Employment in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, pp. 100–21.

SUTTON, M. (2006) Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland. Available online at http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/chron/index.html (last accessed 17 March 2007).

TEITEL, Ruth (2000) ‘Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes’, in R. Teitel, Transitional Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

THOMSON, Michael (2006) ‘Masculinity, Reproductivity and Law’. Available online: www.ccels.cf.ac.uk/literature/publications/2005/thomsonpaper.pdf (last accessed 27 November 2006).

WARD, Margaret (1983) Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women in Irish Nationalism. London: Pluto Press.

YUVAL DAVIS, Nira (2000) Gender and Nation. London: Sage Publications.


  • Intersectionality
  • gender
  • transitional justice
  • equality


Dive into the research topics of 'Engendering transitional justice: questions of absence and silence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this