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Thesis submitted to Technological University Dublin in part fulfilment of the requirements for the award of masters Degree (M.A.) in Criminology, September 2016.


The unofficial, internal culture of An Garda Siochana is an area where there has been a deficit of academic research and scrutiny despite it being existential to the public discourse on garda reform, especially in recent years. It has been pointed out that the lack of data on the organisational value system of the Irish police is due in part to the nascent state of criminological research in Ireland and a reluctance on the part of the Garda authorities to co-operate in research studies. The primary objective of this study was to explore one aspect of police culture: the impact of working in a confrontational and conflicted environment on individual frontline gardai as seen through the lens of their lived experiences. The responses of the research participants were then analysed and considered in the context of the existing theoretical framework of police occupational culture. A qualitative approach was adopted using the format of semi-structured interviews in order to allow the interviewees greater flexibility and scope in expressing their experiences and perceptions. The data sample group consisted of eight serving members which was evenly divided between gender, rank (garda or sergeant) and geographical location (Northern and Southern Divisions of the Dublin Metropolitan Region). When the data were analysed a number of common cultural themes emerged from the responses of the individual participants which conflated with some of the main characteristics of police culture as identified in the literature including: social isolation/solidarity; ‘gallows humour’ as a coping mechanism for dealing with the stresses of the job; suspiciousness/wariness; cynicism; a desire for action; and an ‘us versus them’ division of the social world. The principle conclusion of the research is that police culture in An Garda Siochana is formed by the experiences of young officers working in a confrontational environment. It also supports the theory that police forces in modern liberal, capitalist democracies, which face similar societal tensions, also share a range of distinctive cultural characteristics which are universal, stable and lasting. The primary recommendation is that much more comprehensive and expansive research is required in order to gain a greater understanding of the multi-dimensional occupational culture of the Irish police. Such detailed investigation is capable of providing invaluable and more enlightened insights for policy makers and stakeholders involved in the criminal justice sector.



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