Peace at any cost? The necessity of the On the Runs Scheme to the endurance of peace in Northern Ireland

Amanda Lynn Hall

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From 2000 to 2014, the British government engaged in a secret scheme aimed at allowing Republican paramilitaries ‘On the Run’ to return to the United Kingdom without risk of penalty. When this scheme came into public view in 2013, those responsible in the British government justified it as ‘necessary’ to maintaining peace following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as a failure to address IRA demands on the topic would have risked a return to active fighting. This research compares the success of the preceding Early Release Scheme in Northern Ireland with the experiences and potential of the On the Runs (OTR) Scheme, evaluating British governmental officials’ testimony on the OTR Scheme to determine the degree to which the potential for paramilitary spoilers drove the development of a clandestine programme designed to encourage IRA support. It was the perception that these paramilitary spoilers would and could derail peace in Northern Ireland if their demands were not met that drove the OTR Scheme. As peace remains fragile, with the future of power-sharing due to concerns about the IRA remaining questionable as recently as 2015, it is obvious that the threat of spoilers remains a driving force of action in the region.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Political Studies
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date14 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2018


  • Northern Ireland
  • OTR Scheme
  • the Troubles
  • Peace-making
  • Prisoner release
  • Post-conflict politics
  • Paramilitary organisations


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