Law enforcement in Ireland
This is a description of law enforcement in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Before the Republic (then called the Irish Free State) left the union, one police force - the Royal Irish Constabulary - policed almost the whole island (aside from Dublin, where the Dublin Metropolitan Police were the main force, Belfast where the Belfast Borough Police were the main force and the borough of Londonderry where the Londonderry Borough Police were the main force before merging with the RIC. See List of defunct law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom and Irish Police records and also Royal Irish Constabulary Forum for other forces in Ireland that have been disbanded.).
The Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are the direct descendants of that force, while a new police force - the Garda Síochána - was set up in the Irish Free State. Today, due to the sharing of a land border and legislation introduced to both countries after the Belfast Agreement of 1998, there is cooperation between the main police forces of jurisdictions.
Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland has a single national civilian police force, Garda Síochána na hÉireann (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland). This force is responsible for all aspects of territorial civil policing. The Garda Síochána have been the only territorial police force in the Republic since their merger with the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1925.
In addition to the Gardaí, other policing bodies include the
- Póilíní Airm, the military police corps of the Irish Army,
- Airport Police Service who perform aviation policing functions at Dublin,Cork & Shannon airports.
- Harbour Police which perform harbour policing functions at Dublin Port & Dún Laoghaire Harbour.
Law enforcement in Northern Ireland follows a similar model to that of the rest of the United Kingdom in that it is the responsibility of the local territorial police force. However, unlike England and Wales, which has police forces divided by local areas such as ceremonial counties or local council areas, Northern Ireland has a single territorial police force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), formerly known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This force, one of the largest in the UK, is responsible for all local policing in the region.
In addition to the PSNI, there are other agencies which have responsibility for specific parts of Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure:
Officers of these forces have full constabulary powers within one mile of the specific locations they police, which come from specific pieces of legislation relating to them.
A further civilian police force with powers in Northern Ireland is the Ministry of Defence Police, which has responsibility for policing all MOD property, they are assisted in this by the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service. Additionally, the Royal Military Police has a presence in British Army barracks.