North-South Irish Responses to Transnational Organised Crime

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Research Institute for Social Sciences


The purpose of this research is to offer a critical analysis of action against organised crime in Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, with particular reference to cross-border co-operation. The project aims to fill some gaps in current research. For instance, there is no up-to-date and comprehensive study on cross-border co-operation to combat organised crime in the two jurisdictions. Also, while the research into some aspects of cross-border co-operation such as transnational policing exists, it falls short of providing an analysis of other key areas of legal co-operation such as execution of warrents, mutual recognition of judicial decisions and freezing of criminal assets. Finally, although much of the previous research on organised crime has been able to elucidate the key sociological or criminological issues such as the causes of organised crime and the nature of criminal organisations, they do not necessarily cover the key legal issues (e.g. a substantive and procedural criminal law, provisions for international co-operation, and the rights of defendants/suspects). The proposed research intends to address these points and contribute to the ongoing debates on cross-border co-operation over organised crime.

The key research questions are:

1) How is organised crime defined and understood in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? Do the definitions adopted by both jurisdictions reflect the ones provided by the European Union or the United Nations? If not, why not?

2) What are the key strategies and enforcement measures being adopted/implemented in these two jurisdictions?

3) What provision is there to facilitate cross-border co-operation between these jurisdictions? Has that been assisted by the European Union or the United Nations?

4) What are the factors affecting the effective prevention and suppression of organised crime in these jurisdictions? Are these factors common to the two jurisdictions or particular to one?

5) Is there a strong link between organised crime and terrorism in these jurisdictions, and Northern Ireland in particular? Are the law enforcement responses adequate to address this nexus?

6) What challenges are posed to the protection of human rights of citizens generally, including those suspected of organised crime and victims of it?

7) In light of the devolution of powers relating to criminal justice and policing in Northern Ireland, what are the key challenges facing authorities from both jurisdictions, particularly in relation to cross-border co-operation?

8) How are the regional (EU law) and international (UN Convention) standards translated and implemented in practice at the national level?

In order to address these questions, the researchers will conduct in-depth desktop analysis of national legislation, policy/strategy papers published by governments, reports of non-governmental organisations and academic literature in the first instance. This will be complemented by a series of semi-structured interviews to be held with the key stakeholders, such as civil servants, law enforcement agencies, defence lawyers, victims of organised crime, as well as representatives of relevant European organisations such as Europol and Eurojust. Through these interviews, it is hoped that information obtained by desktop research will be verified, and the researchers will also be able to obtain other information which may not be available in the public domain, such as upcoming reforms of legislation, detailed crime statistics, and new initiatives.

The research will be beneficial to academics beyond the discipline of law, such as criminology and other social science subjects. It is also relevant to the key stakeholders such as law enforcement officials, policy makers, officials of international organisations and members of civil society. In summary, it is hoped that the research will make some impact upon policy development in the field.

Planned Impact

1) Communication and Engagement

The proposed research is intended to facilitate constructive dialogues and interaction not only among academics, but also among the key stakeholders, such as public and law enforcement officials, judiciary and members of civil society. This will be done in several ways. To begin with, an advisory board will be established under this project. It will consist of 10 members (5 from each jurisdiction - 2 representatives from Departments of Justice, 2 representatives from law enforcement agencies, 2 Human Rights Commissioners, 2 members from civil society organisations, and 2 academic members) and meet every six months. It is hoped that the board will serve as a platform for information exchange and networking among members and beyond, thereby making some impact upon the policy development in the field.

Two disseminating events are envisaged under this project. An updating seminar will take place in Dublin at the end of the first year. The members of advisory board as well as other participants in the project (i.e. interviewees) will be invited to participate. At the end of the research project, an international conference will be held in Belfast. In addition to the advisory board members and interviewees, representatives from the European Union institutions such as Europol and Eurojust and other stakeholders will be invited. Therefore, the project has the potential to influence the key stakeholders beyond Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The researchers will also disseminate research findings in order to promote practical application of research findings. A final report will be distributed not only to those who take part in the research project, but also wider governmental and non-governmental communities. This will be complemented by presentations at stakeholder conferences such as the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law and the International Criminal Law Network. The researchers will also explore the possibilities of publishing papers commissioned by the governmental and non-governmental bodies such as the UK Home Office and the Irish Human Rights Commission so that the research project can have a maximum impact. Further, the research project might also form a basis for consultancy in the future. Both the PI and the CI have extensive experience of consultancy in the governmental and non-governmental sectors, and they may be able to promote practical application of their research at various levels. In addition, the researchers acknowledge the importance of disseminating information through the internet. In this regard, the websites of QUB and UCD will have a link to our research findings, thereby making it more accessible to wider audience. A request for dissemination through the internet will also be made to governmental and non-governmental organisations which participate in this project.

A more medium to long-term impact of this research project is a possibility of providing expert comments through the media in the future. Both the PI and the CI have good experience of this, as they regularly comment on the issues of their expertise through the local and national TV news and newspapers. Because of the nature of the subject, the media interest is likely to be very high, and the researchers will be available to comment when requested.


10 25 50
Description We discovered that both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been instrumental in implementing various measures against organised crime. There have been a number of good practices as well as areas of improvement, and we have proposed practical recommendations.
Exploitation Route I hope that our findings will be considered by relevant stakeholders for policy discussion and development relating to organsied crime.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Dissemination through seminars and workshops Our report was cited in a report on human trafficking published by the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association, at Our report was cited in a report on human trafficking commissioned and published by the European Commission,
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services