Paramilitary punishments in Belfast: policing beneath the peace

John Topping, Jonny Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


As an enduring legacy of the conflict, paramilitary policing remains an unpalatable but indisputable fact within Belfast's working-class, Republican communities. Historically, while much attention has been devoted to the causes and consequences of paramilitarism along with the terrorist threat posed by such organizations, little attention has been paid to the influence upon, or relations between, such nonstate policing actors, the communities in which they exist and the delivery of policing by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. While local and international literature surrounding paramilitary violence has tended towards political axiom or physical impact of such activity, the current paper presents an empirical study of the relations between communities and Republican paramilitary organizations who seek to exploit a perceived dearth of state-based policing at the community level within Belfast. Framing the ontology of paramilitary policing and its support from a community, rather than political or security perspective, the paper argues that continuing grass-roots support for this ‘new’ paramilitary policing within Republican communities of Belfast is more complex and nuanced than the political antecedents of the conflict from which such activity emerged – especially in terms of such support surviving successive political negotiations and police reforms since the ‘Good Friday’ Agreement of 1998.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-59
Number of pages19
JournalBehavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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