O'Toole to Discuss Northern Ireland Police Reform Effort

O'Toole to Discuss Northern Ireland Police Reform Effort

Kathleen O'Toole
Former Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Kathleen O'Toole, '76, who served as Boston College Alumni Association executive director from 1998-99, will return to campus on April 10 to discuss her experiences as a member of the panel that recommended reforms for the Northern Ireland police force.

O'Toole, now with the Boston public relations firm GPC/O'Neill & Associates Inc., will present her talk on the Patten Commission at 9 a.m. in Devlin 026. Her appearance is sponsored by the Irish Studies Program.

In June of 1998, O'Toole was one of eight experts appointed by Britain's then-Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam to propose ways of improving the policing structures and arrangements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, particularly in the area of community relations. The role and future of the RUC has been one of the more contentious issues in the Northern Ireland debate. Critics accused the RUC of failing to serve the interests of - and demonstrating hostility to - Ulster's Catholic population. Loyalists and Unionists, however, warned that reform efforts would hamper the RUC's ability to maintain law and order.

The commission, headed by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, released its report in the fall of 1999. Among other recommendations, the panel called for renaming the RUC as the Northern Ireland Police Service, and that human rights be emphasized as a chief mission of the police force, to be reflected in its training and assessment methods and even in the oath administered to officers. Northern Ireland's Roman Catholic population should also be better represented in the police ranks, the commission said.

Implementation of the reforms has been delayed, however, due to strong disagreements among the Northern Ireland political parties, as well as the fragile state of the peace accord.

-Sean Smith


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