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Northern Ireland Policing

Boston, MA from September 13 - 20, 2003

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As part of its ongoing commitment to helping achieve the goals of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Institute hosted a delegation of police, community leaders, local government representatives, politicians, and others involved in policing reforms in Northern Ireland. The group of twenty-eight participated in a week-long program of site visits, seminars, facilitated discussion and reflection in Boston from September 13 - 20, 2003. The program was a joint project of the Irish Institute at Boston College and Mediation Northern Ireland.

Reform of policing is central to the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and in the past five years, Northern Ireland has taken huge strides towards the creation of a police service that is more representative of the communities it serves, and that meets community and societal needs in a responsive and impartial manner.

Effective policing in a diverse, democratic, and peaceful society requires the full participation of all community members. Program participants represented the broadest spectrum of people involved in ongoing reforms, including officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, managers of local District Policing Partnerships, and senior executives from several of the twenty six District Councils.

The program was designed to give participants an opportunity to examine Boston’s experience of community policing through a series of presentations and dialogues with police and public safety officials, community representatives and activists, members of the clergy, and researchers of policing in the academe. The program’s overarching goal was to provide a space for retreat and reflection aimed at creating ongoing dialogue among participants and their US hosts, and encouraging reflection on policing as a civic endeavor that can support reconciliation and normalization in Northern Ireland.

The positive response from Boston community to the program was overwhelming. The group met with members of the Boston Police Department, representatives from the Ten Point Coalition, community activists in Dorchester, and Executive Secretary for Public Safety, Edward A. Flynn. As part of their support for US-Northern Irish collaboration and exchange, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the British Consulate jointly sponsored a reception at Parkman House to welcome the group to Boston. University Professor of History Thomas E. Hachey, Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College, hosted a reception and dinner at the Burns Library.

Follow-up programming will take place in Northern Ireland to continue the discussions begun in Boston around how US models of policing may be appropriate for Northern Ireland, and how collaboration between all parties who support reform can be maximized for the benefit of the wider community.

This exchange program was funded by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the Irish Institute, at the Boston College Center for Irish Programs, as well as the European Union Peace & Reconciliation Programme through the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. Program content was developed by Mediation Northern Ireland and the Futureways Programme, with the assistance of the Irish Institute.