News archive 2006
‘Normalisation' in Northern Ireland report26 September 2006, PR125/06
Peace and ‘normalisation' in Northern Ireland involves more than tearing down watch-towers and demilitarizing police, according to a new report out today. It is also about the culture and ethos of the institutions of justice and law and order. For that culture and ethos to become truly ‘normalised', the criminal justice system must operate as part of a fully functioning democracy that is dedicated to the human rights of all.
Criminal justice and police reform is heavily dependent on the legal, political and social framework in which it operates. ‘Normalisation' can only be achieved with solid political backing and public support.
These are findings published in Securing the Peace: The Normalisation of Security Arrangements in Northern Ireland, a report from King's College London School of Law commissioned by the Independent Monitoring Commission; the international commission established by the British and Irish Governments to oversee normalisation and paramilitary decommissioning in Northern Ireland.
To see the full report, go to this website.
Report author, Ben Bowling Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice comments: ‘These conclusion will give much food for thought to the British and Irish governments as they seek to re-establish the Northern Irish Assembly in crucial talks in the coming weeks.'
The report is the culmination of three months exploratory research by Professor Bowling, Dr Peter R Neumann (Director of the Centre for Defence Studies), and Cian C Murphy (Research Assistant in the School of Law) investigating what the concept of ‘normalisation' means and how it is being achieved in Northern Ireland.
The authors note that the concept goes beyond the British Government's current programme of ‘normalisation' – which is a commitment to a reduced presence of military troops, demilitarized police, and the repeal of counter-terrorism laws peculiar to the province. Rather, they found that the process of normalisation is a far broader concept, encompassing many public agencies. It draws on experiences of post-conflict societies around the world, and offers two visions of ‘normalisation'.
Dr Neumann explains: ‘The first is an idea of normalisation as a comparison between Northern Ireland and a comparable region or city in the south of Ireland, or Britain. Under this model, the region would aspire to become ‘normal' in the sense that Dublin, or London is ‘normal'.
‘The other vision is ‘normality' as a state of aspiring to standards – based on democracy and the protection of human rights and civil liberties.'
The authors conclude that while some bodies sometimes seek to use the comparative approach, it is the latter, standards-based approach that is to be encouraged.
Cian C Murphy says: ‘To the credit of many institutions in the province, this seems to be the predominant approach. The establishment of a Police Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland predates similar developments in Britain.'
A significant risk identified by the report is that the pressure of the ‘war on terrorism' will alter perceptions of ‘normality'.
Professor Bowling notes: ‘To avoid a built-in erosion of civil liberties, the normalisation process in Northern Ireland is best tied to values and norms based on democracy and the rule of law. Tying confliction resolution to comparisons in Britain might undermine this.'
The second task of the report was to assess the bodies involved in normalisation in Northern Ireland, to identify any overlaps in roles, or on the other hand, jobs left undone.
The structures for oversight that are in place are ‘very comprehensive', Dr Neumann says. Nevertheless, the report notes a possible gap: the winding-up of the Justice Oversight Commissioner (final report in June 2006) and the Patten Oversight Commissioner (in May 2007), is cause for concern.
These two bodies, respectively responsible for overseeing criminal justice reform and police reform, noted in recent reports that reform would only be concluded if and when full devolution of these matters was achieved. The authors observe that with the Oversight Commissioners no longer operational, there may be no-one to draw keen progress towards ‘normalisation' into the spotlight.
Notes to editorsSchool of Law
The School of Law at King's College London has been awarded the highest research and teaching ratings by the UK Government's Higher Education Funding Council, and enjoys a distinguished international reputation. Last month in the second National Student Survey, the School of Law was voted the top UK university law department in terms of student satisfaction.
Ben Bowling is Professor of Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice and Director of Criminological Studies in the School of Law, King's College London and Visiting Professor at the University of the West Indies.
He has published widely in the fields of crime and policing and speaks regularly about his work on courses, conferences, television and radio.
He runs the Criminology & Criminal Justice MA which is designed for those considering a career in legal practice, in criminal policy development, in statutory and voluntary agencies, or in academic research and/or teaching.
Peter Neumann is Director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's. He served as Academic Director of the Club de Madrid's International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security (the largest ever gathering of terrorism and security experts) in March 2005 and acted as senior advisor to the National Policy Forum on Terrorism, Security and America's Purpose, which took place in Washington D.C in September 2005.
He recently completed a research project which examined under what conditions terrorist groups may be persuaded to become part of the political mainstream. The results will be part of a book out late 2006. He has published extensively on intelligence, terrorism and counter-terrorism, including Britain's Long War: British Strategy in the Northern Ireland Conflict, 1969-98 (Palgrave Macmillan 2003), the most comprehensive evaluation of British strategy in the Northern Ireland conflict.
King's College London
King's College London is the fourth oldest university in England with more than 13,700 undergraduates and nearly 5,600 graduate students in nine schools of study based at five London campuses. It is a member of the Russell Group: a coalition of the UK's major research-based universities. The College has had 24 of its subject-areas awarded the highest rating of 5* and 5 for research quality, demonstrating excellence at an international level, and it has recently received an excellent result in its audit by the Quality Assurance Agency.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, international relations, medicine and the sciences, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to four Medical Research Council Centres – more than any other university.
King's is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings, with income from grants and contracts of more than £100 million, and has an annual turnover of more than 363 million.
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