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Pushing Boundaries Seminar Series
Admitting the inadmissible: Ranciere, revisionism and the Special Advisors Legislation in Northern Ireland

Presented by
Dr Cillian McGrattan

This paper takes the idea of lesson-drawing to refer in one way to a meaning-giving practice that links the past, the present and the future. I explore this notion through approaches to dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. Since 1998 these have centred on storytelling practices and juridical inquiries. Despite a number of high-profile consultation exercises, there has, as yet, been no demonstrable political appetite for agreeing an overarching mechanism to work through the legacies of the three and a half decades of violence. I suggest that in that vacuum a process of revising the ‘Troubles’ has been gathering pace, centred primarily around legalistic and transitional justice scholarship. Borrowing from Rancière’s description of ‘heretical’ historical revisionism as a cause of political confusion I map three lessons to be avoided before offering an alternative approach to dealing with the past. The paper ends with a reading of recent legislation on ministerial special advisors as emblematic of the Rancièrean notion of ‘silent witnessing’: in particular, the idea that absences create their own political effect through paralepsis – namely, the admission of that which is otherwise deemed inadmissible.

Cillian McGrattan is Lecturer in Politics. He has previously taught at Swansea University and the University of the West of Scotland. He was a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin and completed his PhD at the University of Ulster. He is the author of Northern Ireland, 1968- 2008: The Politics of Entrenchment (Palgrave Macmillan 2010); and The Northern Ireland Conflict (Oneworld, 2010) (with Aaron Edwards). His second monograph was published in October 2012, Memory, Politics and Identity: Haunted by History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); and an edited collection appeared in December 2012, Everyday Life after the Irish Conflict: The Impact of Devolution and North-South Cooperation (Manchester University Press, 2012) (co-edited with Elizabeth Meehan), together with numerous articles and book chapters. He is currently writing a book on the politics of trauma (Routledge, forthcoming) and is Reviews Editor for Irish Political Studies.

Event info

This event has ended

Wednesday 4 March

12.30pm to 1.30pm


Zoe Lennon