By Sadé Calin
Issues faced by police during unrest in Northern Ireland, described in an Irish professor’s speech Feb. 24, put a spotlight on the Political Science Department’s new minor in homeland security policy.
Professor Ruth Fee, head of the School of Criminology, Political and Social Policy at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, shared insights about homeland security education with students and faculty in Sweigart Auditorium. She spoke about the rocky history of a divided Ireland, a nation split into two major communities: loyalists, who make up 90 percent of Northern Ireland and who wish to remain a part of the larger United Kingdom; and separatists, who demand that Northern Ireland split from the United Kingdom and form a separate country.
Herein lie the two sides of a conflict that has drawn attention to the importance of developed homeland security policy.
Dr. Jonathan Mendilow, chair of the Political Science Department, stated that homeland decurity policy is a shared minor between political science and global studies, though students of all disciplines are welcome to join the program, because of the close interaction of the two fields in the subject matter.
“The meaning of that interaction in the external environment is that it deals with civil rights,” he said. “There are few places that deal with this more than Northern Ireland.”
Over the past 50 years, according to Fee, policing has been the most contentious issue in Northern Ireland, with the two most prominent concerns being “use of force,” and its relation to the right to life, and “accountability.”
The major issue was that Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom as a whole, did not have a written constitution guaranteeing rights and liberties to citizens. In fact, today, the United Kingdom still has no written constitution, being one of only three countries in the world not to have one. Human rights are meant to protect citizens from abuses of state power and, Fee said, the failure of police to recognize that everyone holds these rights, even terrorists, simply by virtue of being human. She said there have been gross miscarriages of justice in Northern Ireland, resulting in the lack of faith in the justice system.
“The crux of this problem is that people feel really aggrieved at not having a voice,” Fee said. “We’re never going to move forward unless we understand where we’ve been in the past.”
Education in matters such as these will be taught in the Homeland Security minor. It is important that students understand political histories, what gives rise to terrorism, and how modern technology and the press affect national security and other related issues, according to Fee.
Fee said that a large part of her job beyond teaching is “actively encouraging students to become part of this (political) process.” She admitted that the people rioting in Northern Ireland and causing harm are not the same people found in a University. In that educational environment, where the history of the conflict is taught respectfully with an aim to fairly represent and understand both sides, people can focus on overcoming the cultural conflict instead of perpetuating it.
“Register to vote,” she advised Rider students, “and always use your vote.”