Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism, and Public Order, 1850-1940

By Clive Emsley; Barbara Weinberger | Go to book overview

The Politics of Policing: Ireland 1919-1923

Derek Sheills

In the early hours of December 6th 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty which ended the guerilla war between the IRA and British forces was signed at Downing Street. It formally created the Irish Free State, made up of 26 southern counties to be governed from Dublin, while the remaining six northern counties were to be governed by a Northern Ireland assembly with powers devolved from the British Parliament at Westminster. New states require police systems, and this paper will examine some of the elements which contributed to the creation of police forces in the states of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State following partition.

There were many sets of actors involved in the creation of the police forces in partitioned Ireland. The Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland, as well as the Imperial Government operating through both the Colonial and Home Offices for North and South respectively, and the Provisional Government of Ireland Committee within the British Cabinet. The efforts of these three governments to effect a smooth and easy transition to new policing arrangements in partitioned Ireland were crucially influenced by the other groupings involved, the unionist grass roots support, the "irregular" Irish Republican Army, and, not least, the police themselves. All involved were well aware of the importance of the police in the process of consolidating both new states.

Since the 1801 Act of Union there had been no parliamentary body in Ireland. The government of Ireland was administered from Dublin Castle by a Chief Secretary who was a political appointee and a member of the Cabinet at Westminster. In London there was an Irish Office which dealt with certain matters, largely trade and emigration, while political representation of the people was carried out through the Imperial Parliament. Agitation for Home Rule had increasingly been dominated by Roman Catholics. The agitation succeeded in securing the Government of Ireland Act of 1912, and this was bitterly opposed by most Protestants in Ireland who formed themselves into the Ulster Volunteer Force. Catholics responded with the formation of the Irish Volunteers and civil war seemed likely until the outbreak of

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