The origins of the most recent sustained period of conflict in Northern Ireland can be traced back to the civil rights movement that emerged in 1968, the coercive response by the Unionist government and communities, and subsequent armed Republican campaign against the British government and security forces. What followed was over 30 years of sectarian violence, terrorism, counter-terrorism and the separation of communities. The signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was not a conclusion to the conflict nor a resolution of the issues that had been the catalyst for the violence and disorder. Instead, the Agreement provided a framework for the transformation of the conflict through a peaceful political process and the reform of policing and justice institutions in Northern Ireland.
In 2013, Saferworld and Intercomm facilitated roundtable discussions with community development and interface workers from both Loyalist and Republican backgrounds; police officers from an operational and strategic background; academics and members of civil society to reflect on progress, challenges and lessons with regard to community policing, the policing of public disorder, and the management of transition in Northern Ireland.
The resulting paper, Reflections on the Northern Ireland experience: the lessons underpinning the normalisation of policing and security in a divided society , highlights issues of leadership, trust, partnership and accountability as key to progress and offers insight and valuable lessons drawn from the Northern Ireland experience that resonate with other contexts emerging from violent conflict.