The US demonstrations over police aggression towards minorities has an antecedent in Northern Ireland, according to a police commander in Salinas, California, who spent the first 10 years of his life in Northern Ireland in the midst of “the Troubles” there, then later wrote his master’s thesis on the applicability of its policing reforms to the United States.
There are differences, though, according to John Murray, a Catholic. “The current US movement can be seen as a part of a disenfranchised community’s legitimate long national struggle to deliver on the promise of America’s founding,” Murray told reporters.
“The Irish struggle was and is part of a long fight regarding who ruled the Irish people and by what right; it can be seen as a continuation of the Irish Revolution.”
He added, “The Irish civil rights movement (that served as a precursor to the Troubles) was directly influenced by the African American civil rights movement of the late 1960s.”
Murray said he can remember being told that the Royal Ulster Constabulary were “not your friends” by his Irish Catholic father, who served in US Army, earning US citizenship before he married. This allowed Murray, his brother and his parents to emigrate to the United States as citizens.
Despite the instruction from his father, Murray, now 48, felt an attraction to police work and joined the Salinas police force after serving in the military himself.
“The calls to disband the Minneapolis police force,” which have grown intensity after the death of George Floyd last month while in police custody there, are “very similar to what happened in Northern Ireland,” Murray told reporters.
“That was a bone of contention in the (Good Friday) agreement (of 1998). There were a lot of people who had legitimate complaints of injustice that saw justice fail to be carried out when they saw members of the RUC become members of that Police Service of Northern Ireland.”
Photo: In this 2017 file photo, a wreath and photographs of the three men whose remains are yet to be recovered are seen during the 11th annual “Silent Walk for the Disappeared” to remember victims of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. (Catholic News Service photo/Brian Lawless, PA Images via Reuters)