Policing Reform in Northern Ireland: A History and Analysis of its Use in Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation
thesisposted on 2020-07-14, 00:00 authored by Logan Eicholzer
Northern Ireland has been regarded by some as one of the most conflict-ridden countries within Europe, and perhaps the world, during the late 20th century. The vast majority of the conflict in the country stemmed from clashing national and religious identities, which in many ways overlapped. In 1998, after 30 years of ongoing conflict, the British government set into motion large-scale, widespread policing reforms after the release of a 128-page reform report detailing 175 recommendations for positive change within the police force. Ultimately, the policing reforms instituted in Northern Ireland were somewhat successful at bringing about positive change by addressing issues of collusion within the police force between both the British government and paramilitary groups, as well as internally addressing instances of unfair treatment and bias. However, Northern Ireland’s police force continues to be hindered by ongoing community distrust fueled by sectarian division, unanswered questions of legitimacy, and a failure to retroactively address the legacies of injustices carried out by the RUC. As Britain continues its transition out of the European Union, a move widely protested by Northern Irish citizens, many signs indicate that tensions will continue to grow. Positive next steps for policing in Northern Ireland need to occur at multiple levels of governance and accountability, and would include more community outreach, increased emphasis on integration (religious, racial, or otherwise) in schools and beyond, as well as more efforts by the government to acknowledge previous wrongdoing.