Barriers to Employment and Reintegration for ‘Politically Motivated’ Former Prisoners in Northern Ireland

  • Clare D. Dwyer (Clare D. Dwyer is a Lecturer in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Correspondence: School of Law, Queen's University Belfast, 28 University Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT7 1NN. Email:

The prisoner provisions under the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement emphasised the importance of the reintegration and civic inclusion of ‘politically motivated’ former prisoners; however, numerous barriers to full reintegration remain. Notwithstanding the fact that these prisoners were released as part of a peace process, based on principles of conflict transformation and reconciliation, there were still numerous conditions placed upon them as part of their release process and they continued to hold a ‘criminal’ record upon release. As with ‘ordinary’ ex-prisoners, these ‘politically motivated’ former prisoners have subsequently faced numerous obstacles in their attempts to reintegrate back into society, particularly in the area of employment. Recognising that they needed to deal with the consequences of imprisonment, ‘politically motivated’ former prisoners formed numerous self-help organisations to assist in the reintegration process and have mobilised to lobby for protection against the discrimination and unequal treatment experienced by ex-prisoners seeking employment. This article explores the remaining barriers to employment for ‘politically motivated’ former prisoners and the consequences of these barriers. The article moves to assess how prisoner groups have subsequently used a ‘rights based’ discourse to engage local government in their struggle to overcome existing obstacles before finally concluding that any piecemeal attempt to remove barriers to full reintegration will only impede the longer term conflict transformation process in Northern Ireland.

Keywords: Reintegration, Employment barriers, ‘Politically motivated’ former prisoners, Northern Ireland

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