The Crowned Harp: Policing Northern Ireland (reprint 2006, 2010)

Graham Ellison, Jim Smyth

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The Crowned Harp provides a detailed analysis of policing in Northern Ireland. Tracing its history from 1922, Ellison and Smyth portray the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) as an organisation burdened by its past as a colonial police force. They analyse its perceived close relationship with unionism and why, for many nationalists, the RUC embodied the problem of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, arguing that decisions made on the organisation, composition and ideology of policing in the early years of the state had consequences which went beyond the everyday practice of policing.

The authors provide an extended discussion of policing after the outbreak of civil unrest in 1969, ask why policing was cast in a paramilitary mould, and look at the use of special constabularies and the way in which the police dealt with social unrest which threatened to break down sectarian divisions. Examining the reorganisations of the RUC in the 1970s and 1980s, Ellison and Smyth focus on the various structural, legal and ideological components, the professionalisation of the force and the development of a coherent, if contradictory, ideology. The analysis of the RUC during this period sheds light on the problematic nature of using the police as a counter insurgency force in a divided society. Perceptions of the police, and the opinions of rank and file members are examined and an assessment is made of the various alternative models of policing, such as community policing and local control. This book offers important lessons about the nature of policing in divided societies.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages224
ISBN (Print)0745313930
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2000

Publication series

NameContemporary Irish Studies

Bibliographical note

reprinted 2006, 2010


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