Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Policing Twentieth Century Ireland

A History of An Garda Síochána, 1st Edition

By Vicky Conway


280 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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The twentieth century was a time of rapid social change in Ireland: from colonial rule to independence, civil war and later the Troubles; from poverty to globalisation and the Celtic Tiger; and from the rise to the fall of the Catholic Church. Policing in Ireland has been shaped by all of these changes. This book critically evaluates the creation of the new police force, an Garda Síochána, in the 1920s and analyses how this institution was influenced by and responded to these substantial changes.

Beginning with an overview of policing in pre-independence Ireland, this book chronologically charts the history of policing in Ireland. It presents data from oral history interviews with retired gardaí who served between the 1950s and 1990s, giving unique insight into the experience of policing Ireland, the first study of its kind in Ireland. Particular attention is paid to the difficulties of transition, the early encounters with the IRA, the policing of the Blueshirts, the world wars, gangs in Dublin and the growth of drugs and crime. Particularly noteworthy is the analysis of policing the Troubles and the immense difficulties that generated.

This book is essential reading for those interested in policing or Irish history, but is equally important for those concerned with the legacy of colonialism and transition.


"This is an interesting book on the police force of the Republic of Ireland, An Garda Síochána, and forms a valuable contribution to our knowledge of policing within the British Isles. Conway traces the development of the Garda from independence in the early 1920s through the Troubles and to adjusting to a rapidly changing society in recent decades while facing several scandals. It is an engaging analysis of an under-researched force which emerged from British colonial policing and uniquely served as a pillar of reconstruction in post-independence Irish society."

Maurice Punch, Visiting Professor, King`s College London and London School of Economics

"Policing Twentieth Century Ireland is a must-read for scholars of Irish policing and of policing scholars more generally. Policing in Ireland has left its fingerprints on policing practices across the globe and this authoritative and well-written book sheds new light on a history of policing so intermeshed with the nature and development of the state, conflict and social change. It is a welcome addition for criminologists, sociologists, lawyers and historians."

Sharon Pickering, Australian Research Council Professorial Future Fellow and Professor of Criminology, Monash University

"In this book Dr Vicky Conway paints a rich and valuable picture of policing in Ireland over the last 100 years. It is highly readable, well informed and thoughtful, and will be invaluable to anyone interested in Irish policing or curious about criminal law enforcement in states that have undergone a transition from colonial to independent rule. It throws wonderful light in particular on the colonial and post-colonial determinants that have shaped – and continue to shape – the governance and legitimacy of policing in Ireland. Employing post-colonial theory as one tool of analysis, Conway provides an insight not ordinarily captured in conventional Anglo-American policing histories. She seamlessly weaves the personal accounts of 42 retired members of the Irish police force with more academic analyses, ensuring a rich and nuanced commentary. Combining the personal with the scholarly, and the historical with the conceptual, this book is both original and compelling."

Shane Kilcommins, Professor of Law, University College Cork

"This is a most timely publication and addresses an area within policing history that is not widely appreciated or understood… A lot of ground is covered in this book to which a short summary cannot do justice… A good, interesting read…"

Peter Williams, Police History Society

Table of Contents

1. Colonialism and politicised policing, 2. An Garda Siochana: An ill-concieved birth, 3. The 1930s and 40s: Transition and political policing, 4. The 1950s and 60s: a policeman's paradise?, 5. The Troubles and policing Ireland, 6. The special branch and the Troubles, 7. The end of the century: policing change, 8. The twenty-first century: scandal, austerity, reform and managerialism.

About the Author

Vicky Conway is a lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Kent. With degrees in law and criminology she completed her PhD on accountability in the Irish police at Queen’s University Belfast in 2008. She has previously held positions at the University of Leeds, University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast. She has published extensively on policing and the Garda Síochána and regularly contributes to humanrights.ie.

About the Series

Routledge SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories

This series is a collaboration between Routledge and the SOLON consortium (promoting studies in law, crime and history), to present cutting edge interdisciplinary research in crime and criminal justice history, through monographs and thematic collected editions which reflect on key issues and dilemmas in criminology and socio-legal studies by locating them within a historical dimension. The series emphasizes inspiring historical and historiographical methodological approaches to contextualise and understand current priorities and problems and aims to highlight the best, most innovative interdisciplinary work from both new and established scholars in the field, through focusing on the enduring historical resonances to current core criminological and socio-legal issues.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology