Academic journal article IBAR

Confronting Organisational Change: A Northern Ireland Case Study

Academic journal article IBAR

Confronting Organisational Change: A Northern Ireland Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

British post-war defence policy has been dominated by the progressive abandonment of Empire. Dockrill (1988) notes that this has required the British Army to refine and develop the military and policing skills associated with colonial disengagement. Since 1945 the British have developed experience, flexibility and skill in handling insurgency.

There are numerous dimensions to modern insurgency covering economic political and military dimensions, indeed modern insurgency implies some mix of political, social and military agendas. British experience, particularly during the Malaysian campaign of the 1960s, highlighted the need to coordinate both the military and civil response to isolate the insurgents from their support. A major feature of counter insurgency since the war has been the degree to which the security forces have employed local forces, and developed local manpower resources. These resources are important not simply for their intelligence value, but also provide a legitimate means by which sections of the indigenous population can express support for counter insurgency measures. Such locally recruited forces also relieve manpower pressure on the military. Involvement in counter insurgency may interfere with normal or conventional training. The British Army is faced with the seemingly endless task of policing Northern Ireland, and the resulting strain on army manpower has been partially relieved by the increase of manpower within the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and the establishment and gradual refinement of locally recruited military support.

This paper describes the social and political background to the conflict in Northern Ireland, and traces the development of the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) through its predecessor the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), a locally recruited military force consisting of both full and part-time soldiers. The paper explores the belief structures of actors within what is now the Royal Irish Regiment; it sets these attitudes and beliefs within the political and social context of Northern Ireland; and it shows how many of these attitudes run counter to the Regiment' s declared aim of broadening its acceptability to the minority catholic community. The paper highlights the particular problems faced by the organisation in achieving acceptability throughout the community--a prerequisite to the achievement of the organisation's mission; it develops a typology of behaviour within the organisation; and it points to a number of possible strategies for the organisation as it tries to resolve the dilemma of mission and acceptability.

The findings form part of a continuing research project studying the occupational culture of members of the Northern Ireland security forces. The fundamental point of a study of occupational culture is that the analysis of an occupation proceeds from the recognition that work communities are not simply random aggregates of individual workers. It starts from the position that the interpretation and meanings that individuals give to organisations are critically dependent upon the social and cultural context within which these organisations have developed. This paper suggests that the Royal Irish Regiment, although a part of the United Kingdom' s wider military organisation, is in reality locked into the structure of Northern Irish society. The Regiment is unique in the British Army in possessing both full and part-time soldiers. It has one overseas battalion, whilst the remainder of Ole Regiment is dedicated to service in Northern Ireland. Members of the Regiment live in the community and yet are fully operational throughout the year in counter-terrorist operations in the Province. Members of the Regiment therefore require some conception of society and the forces that give it shape, in order for them to orientate their work. The ideas, both implicit and explicit, that these soldiers hold about society help to formulate their views of what their job is all about. …

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