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The Research

'The Post-Brexit Security Field on the Island of Ireland: The Role of Civil Society in Everyday Security'

Exploring the reality of security and safety in local communities across the Island of Ireland

Maintaining security through state policing and civil institutions has been a critical dimension of the peace settlement in Northern Ireland. Underpinned by trust and the development of a robust civil society, this process has been largely successful, despite the political instability generated by both Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol. These circumstances have threatened societal efforts to ensure safety and have highlighted the importance of local communities in supporting the formal institutions of policing and security on all sides of the border. The proposed research aims to explore the various layers of security production, examining actors within both formal and informal spheres, in order to reflect on future security challenges that will need to be addressed.    

The central research questions are:    

 

  1. What and who are the key social, cultural and economic institutions, formal and informal, involved in security production? How are they critical to maintenance of everyday peace and security? And how are informal actors valued and supported relative to more institutionalised forms of security governance?    

  2. What are the security futures facing Ireland, particularly in a shared Island context? What role should these formal and informal institutions play?   

  3. Within this context, how do women and men experience engagements in the security field, and do formal and informal actors’ reflections on the situation vary by gender?  

We define security broadly. We think of security as anything people do to feel safe, live carefree, and safeguard their freedoms. In doing so, we imagine security beyond official state initiatives and surveillance or national defense. Instead, we are interested in the lived, experienced, day-to-day practices local communities and individuals routinely carry out to ensure their wellbeing and success. 

The context

Research suggests that communities across the Island of Ireland regularly carry out activities to protect their safety and security. How a particular community chooses to implement its security mechanisms or determine who is involved often depends on the context and concerns facing that community. We aim to map the actions communities are already taking to stay safe across the Island to better understand the situation and explore how these practices might be impacted in the wake of Brexit. 

Research methods

Through consultation with local practitioners and researchers, we have selected two areas on the Island of Ireland to serve as examples of the security landscape. These case studies will enable us to consider a variety of different safety programmes and services—ranging from local neighbourhood watch groups to volunteer organisations to state sponsored agencies—to try to capture the work that is being done. We are interested in learning what services exist, how they interact with each other, and what people think security should look like in the future.

 

Our research will involve local individuals participating in security maintenance who will share their thoughts and experiences with us through interviews, informal discussions, and workshops. 

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Site Locations

Site One: Eastern Corridor

This corridor captures security and safety practices along the eastern border, including a range of urban and rural settings.

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Site Two: Western Corridor

This corridor captures activities and practices related to security and safety along the western border, particularly focusing on rural areas.

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