Addressing Variations in UK Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Northern Ireland is often held up as the exception to British counter-terrorism strategy. This project aims to address why, looking at policy since the start of the War on Terror to evaluate how variation has been carved out, as well as its impact domestically and internationally.

Department: Politics & International Relations

Supervised by: Dr Amanda Hall

The Placement Project

Refusal to negotiate with terrorists has been a hallmark of British counter-terrorism policy for decades, for fear that such talks would legitimise violence or incentivise further action. Similarly hard-line approaches are used in other areas as well. Yet, in the case of Northern Ireland, a strategy of negotiated settlement has persisted since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, as the threat of violence from both Loyalist and Republican paramilitary groups has forced state action. This research project asks why exceptions are made in the region, as well as addressing the ways this variation has impacted efforts to address both Northern Ireland-related terrorism and terrorism more generally. Given recent decisions to include representatives of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland in discussions surrounding the Brexit process, understanding this variation is timely. Based on previous research, it is hypothesised that perceptions of state legitimacy and power, as well as the development of historic relationships with actors in Northern Ireland, has made it possible to hold the region as an exception while still projecting a clear position on terrorism more broadly. The work will involve coding government policies and official statements since the start of the War on Terror, when government concerns about terrorism shifted from domestic to international concerns. The project will further develop understandings of British counter-terrorism strategy as well as question the suitability of hard-line approaches when evidence that a degree of engagement with these groups can be crucial in efforts at disarmament and the establishment of peace.


The student will be involved in the data collection for this project, which will draw from digitised published documents and statements. This will include legislation, minutes of meetings or debates, speeches, policy documents, and other primary sources. Initially, this work will centre around identifying relevant documents and resources, using keyword searches limited by time period of enquiry. Once identified and logged, these documents will be reviewed and coded as appropriate. Following on from this, the student will work with the PI to define themes and analyse them.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Basic IT skills, including software such as Excel, is necessary. Prior knowledge of the study of terrorism and political violence is useful, as is knowledge of the Northern Ireland case study, but is not essential.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will develop key qualitative research skills, ranging from the design of a codebook through to thematic analysis necessary to make sense of the material coded. They will also develop knowledge of terrorism studies – both as an academic discipline and as a major issue with which governments grapple.

Place of Work

Whiteknights Campus

Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 24 June 2024 - Friday 02 August 2024

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for this project is 5pm on Friday 5th April 2024. To make an application, please go to the following link and complete the application form: To find this project in the application form, please filter ‘school of project applying to’ and select School of Politics, Economics & International Relations

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