Dr. Ian D. Marder, Assistant Professor in Criminology, Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology
Katharina Kurz, Research Assistant, Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology
Community safety requires that the police understand the needs and cultures of diverse communities, and that diverse communities trust police and are willing to approach them when they have problems. Yet, minority ethnic communities globally tend to have limited trust in, and fraught relationships with, the police, not least because they often experience relative over-policing and under-protection.
Recent events in Ireland, including the killing of George Nkencho, create an urgent need to invest time in building understanding and improving the relationship between An Garda Síochána and minority ethnic communities. Yet, with few mechanisms in place to enable direct, structured dialogue between Gardaí and members of minority ethnic communities, there are limited opportunities to speak openly with each other about their experiences and perspectives, or build understanding, trust and empathy.
The aim of the UBUNTU Project is to explore the extent to which restorative practices (RP) can be used to facilitate dialogue and build understanding between young Black adults who live in Blanchardstown and Gardaí who work in Blanchardstown. The objectives of the project are threefold:
- to train a locally-based group of young Black adults and Gardaí in restorative practices;
- to work with these persons to co-design and co-facilitate a dialogue process using restorative practices and involving additional, locally-based young Black adults and Gardaí; and,
- to research this project by observing the preparation meetings, training and dialogue process, and interviewing project participants, partners and stakeholders.
The questions guiding the research under the third objective are:
- How did participants experience the project’s organisation, training and/or dialogue process?
- To what extent did the project enable dialogue and build understanding between participating young Black adults and Gardaí?
- What are the implications for the intercultural competencies of An Garda Síochána and efforts to improve relationships between the police and diverse communities more broadly?
The Irish Research Council (New Foundations) primarily funds the UBUNTU Project. An Garda Síochána and Maynooth University (School of Law and Criminology) provided additional funding for venue hire and materials, respectively. The UBUNTU Project is a partnership between:
- Maynooth University School of Law and Criminology (Ian Marder, Katharina Kurz)
- An Garda Síochána (Paula Hilman, Rose Sweeney, Finbarr Murphy, Peter Burke, Rory Carey)
- Sport Against Racism Ireland (Ken McCue)
- Insaka-Ireland All Africa Youth Movement (Mutale Kanyanta)
- Childhood Development Initiative (Claire Casey, Foluke Oladosu, Kieran O’Dwyer)
Further support for this project was provided by Foróige Blanchardstown Youth Service (Miriam Ryan, Naomi Basdeo), Parslickstown House (Derek Keegan) and Black and Irish (Eric Ehigie). The three phases of the project align with the objectives above, and are described below. Phases 1 and 2 are completed, and Phase 3 is ongoing.
Phase 1 (completed – December 2021-June 2022)
- Work with project partners to establish the project and timeline
- Apply for ethical approval from the Maynooth University Social Research Ethics Committee and Garda Research Unit, with research instruments, consent forms and information sheets
- Work with Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) to identify a training team and develop a bespoke training package
- Work with An Garda Síochána (Blanchardstown Garda Station) to recruit Gardaí who wish to participate in the RP training (nominated by local management) and identify suitable venue
- Work with civil society partners to identify young Black adults who wish to participate in the RP training, and speak with all persons individually to explain the project
- Prepare Gardaí and young Black adults in separate groups in advance of the RP training
- CDI delivers three days of RP training with mixed group of eleven: six Gardaí (five male, one female) and five community members (one male, four female)
- Work with trained group to design the dialogue process and identify trained persons to co-facilitate the dialogue process
- Researcher to observe organising meetings, preparation meetings and training
Phase 2 (completed – June 2022-September 2022)
- Work with An Garda Síochána (Blanchardstown Garda Station) to recruit Gardaí who wish to participate in the dialogue process (email circulated locally to seek expressions of interest)
- Work with civil society partners to identify young Black adults who wish to participate in the dialogue process, and speak with all persons individually to explain the project
- Meet with co-facilitators from the RP trained group (one Garda and one young Black adult) twice to develop and agree dialogue script, plan and logistics
- Prepare Gardaí and young Black adults in separate groups in advance of the dialogue process
- Co-facilitate two-day dialogue process with mixed group of twelve (including co-facilitators): six Gardaí (five male, one female) and six community members (five male and one female)
- Researcher to observe organising meetings, preparation meetings and dialogue process
Phase 3 (completed tasks)
- Publish press release about the dialogue process (published Sept 2022, see below)
- Publish media article about the dialogue process (published Oct 2022, see below)
- Submit article to the Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis about the dialogue process, including annotated version of the dialogue script (submitted Oct 2022, see below)
Phase 3 (ongoing tasks)
- Interview project partners (n=11; 7 interviewed, 0 declined), Garda participants (n=12; 3 interviewed, 0 declined) and community participants (n=11; 6 interviewed, 1 declined) on experiences of the project and views on using RP to build understanding in this context
- Analyse observational and interview data thematically
- Write second briefing for project partners about the research findings and outcomes
- Write report for Irish Research Council about the process, research findings and outcomes
- Communicate the research findings and outcomes widely via the media
- Organise event in Blanchardstown to present and discuss the process, research findings, outcomes and implications with the local public and policymakers and professionals from across the justice, community safety and civil society sectors
- Engage with project partners and other interested parties to explore project replication
- Submit journal article to Policing and Society about the research findings and outcomes
Marder, I. (20/09/2022) UBUNTU Project brings young Black Adults and Gardaí together for dialogue in Dublin West (press release, Maynooth University; republished as a case study here)
Marder, I. (19/10/2022) Dialogue can help Gardaí better understand diverse communities (RTÉ)
Marder, I., Kurz, K., Ibeanu, I. & O’Neill, D. (forthcoming). Restorative circles for police-community dialogue: a facilitation script from the UBUNTU Project in Dublin, Ireland, Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis (pre-print version available on SSRN here)
Call to expand initiative between young Black adults and Gardaí (Irish Examiner, 22/09/2022)
Groundbreaking research project brings together Black youth and Gardaí in Blanchardstown (Irish Legal News, 22/09/2022)
New project facilitates dialogue between Gardaí and young Black adults in Blanchardstown (Hot Press, 27/09/2022)