Bitter Harvests: The Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Response to Paramilitary Vigilantism in Northern Ireland.

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Paramilitary involvement in vigilantism continues to be a significant problem in cease-fire Northern lreland. This paper examines how the vigilantism has been perceived by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) both at an official level and unofficial level. The paper outlines the role the RUC played in the development of organised vigilante systems within many areas of the Province. While the paper recognises that the RUC were operating - and continue to operate - in highly difficult circumstances, avoidable errors were made in how to respond to the alternative justice system. It is argued that a number of RUC practices and policies ultimately worked to reinforce and legitimise the vigilantism within certain communities, while other policies which could have undermined the paramilitaries' alternative justice
systems were not implemented. The article focuses on the lessons which can be taken from the RUC's experience and considers too, the current situation facing the force in Northern lreland as they attempt to restore normal policing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-46
Number of pages20
JournalLow Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Royal Ulster Constabulary
  • policing
  • vigilantism
  • Northern Ireland
  • Troubles
  • Northern Ireland Troubles
  • paramilitaries
  • Irish Republican Army
  • counterterrorism

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