The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

The Books I Picked & Why

Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

By Brian Henry

Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

Why this book?

In Dublin Hanged, Henry paints an evocative picture of the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Irish capital collapsing under rising property crime, food shortages due to series of particularly inclement winters, and political unrest. He also vividly captures the events that led to the organisation of the first metropolitan uniformed police in the British Isles, which came to be widely unpopular. Henry shows, the organisation of the force was costly and in order to fund the new police, the household tax ‘skyrocketed’ virtually overnight. Henry’s analysis reveals there was a marked decline in the frequency of rape and violent assaults in the years following the introduction of the police in October 1786, indicating a degree of effectiveness of the new police despite the lack of its popularity.


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The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922: A Life

By Elizabeth Malcolm

The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922: A Life

Why this book?

The Irish Policeman, 18221922: A Life (2006), shines a spotlight on the men who made up the controversial Irish Constabulary, while providing an exhaustive historical narrative of the force from its inception in 1822 to disbandment in 1922, as mandated by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, article X. The book shows that a career with the Irish Constabulary, or Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) post-Fenian Rising in 1867, was often the only viable alternative to migration as well as an accessible avenue for upward social mobility. The force offered stable pensionable employment and accommodation, and most of the duties were of a mundane police nature, except in times of political instability.


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Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

By Donal P. McCracken

Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

Why this book?

Inspector Mallon covers the latter decades of the nineteenth century in Dublin history, which were characterised by unrest, extremist violence, and police strikes. The late 1800s were also the service years of the celebrated Dublin Police detective John Mallon, ‘the Great Irish Detective’. The book explores the behind-the-scenes relationships between official Dublin and the force, and between the police and the political activists. McCracken examines the impact the Dublin detectives, known as G-men due to their work in the G Division, had on undermining the political threats and bringing known Fenians and members of the Invincibles, responsible for the horrific Phoenix Park murders, to trial.


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The Bulkies: Police and Crime in Belfast, 1800-1865

By Brian Griffin

The Bulkies: Police and Crime in Belfast, 1800-1865

Why this book?

It is not widely known that, like Dublin, Derry and Belfast were policed by their own municipal forces. The Belfast Police was responsible for preserving peace and order in the parts of the city which paid their rates. It looked after lighting, paving, and scavenging. Following sectarian violence and alleged police partisanship peaking in the riots of 1864 and 1869, Derry and Belfast forces were deemed inadequate in the face of rising public distrust.  In contrast to the Royal Irish Constabulary or the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which were headed by Commissioners, the Belfast police were under a single authority, the police board, until 1844, and a police committee thereafter – whose members, as Griffin aptly shows, gave ample reason for ongoing allegations of partisanship and corruption.


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Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

By Vicky Conway

Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

Why this book?

In contrast to earlier works on the Garda history, Conway frames policing experience in Ireland by examining its history and development in the context of post-colonialism, its impact, and lived experiences. As Ireland achieved independence, she shows, ‘time constraints and lack of alternative experience led to the retention of many core features of colonial policing’, resulting in an organisation ideologically different but practically similar to the Irish forces of the preceding century. In 1925, the new police of the Irish Free State absorbed the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Civic Guards, who filled the niche left vacant by the disbanded Constabulary, and contentiously, many ex-RIC men. Conway skillfully weaves gardaí interviews into this varied contemporary history of policing the Republic of Ireland.


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