There are few TV shows that illuminate social media as well as Line of Duty. The focus of the action is the Northern Irish police officer Ted Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar, a famous film and television actor from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
Hastings isn’t the only Northern Irish copper on our screens in recent years.
Before returning from Line of Duty, Bloodlands filled his coveted Sunday 9pm slot on BBC One. A crime drama set in Northern Ireland, The Ghosts of The concerns hang over Jimmy Nesbitt’s DCI Tom Brannick as he tries to solve a case he escaped during the peace process. Before that, one of the most talked about drama was about television crime The autumn. Met official Stella Gibson is sent with Gillian Anderson to fix a botched investigation in Belfast.
From Peaky Blinders to Luther, the Northern Irish policeman has become a mainstay of popular television on both sides of the Irish Sea. The continued interest in Northern Ireland officers in popular culture suggests that there is a fascinating tension to this number for the audience: one that not only makes great television, but also helps viewers understand the complicated history of Northern Ireland and how it does the present has shaped.
Policing between Great Britain and Ireland
The signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 led to reform and renaming of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). This was created as a new “Police service able to receive and maintain support from the whole community ”. This has meant the urge to hire more Catholic officers so that the force can “be representative of the society they oversee”.
Despite the new force, the police force in Northern Ireland is still extremely controversial. Policing has been a sticking point at several key moments in the ongoing peace process.
The nationalist community, following an Irish identity and often Catholicism, distrusts violence based on discrimination Catholic recruits faced during the problems. There are also emerging details of the arrangement in the Murders of catholic civilians during the problems.
The trade union community, which has traditionally been more supportive of the PSNI, is largely Protestant and supports Northern Ireland as part of the UK, also disagrees with the police’s tactics. In March 2021, the First Secretary of State, Arlene Foster, urged the police chief to resign after it was revealed that no prosecution would be held after Republican Bobby Storey’s funeral, which was allowed to go ahead despite COVID restrictions. Foster described a Crisis of confidence in monitoring the incident.
While violence has declined steadily since 1998, sporadic outbreaks are still a feature of life. We have seen this in the past few days after eight consecutive nights of riot in the capital city of Belfast, the worst tide of sectarian violence in years.
Such tensions have provided fertile material for film and literary authors, and perhaps this is why the cultural representation of the various policing experiences in Northern Ireland has increased since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. At a time when the situation is so inconsistent that fictional portrayals of Northern Irish officers make it possible to explore these issues and provide nuances behind the headlines.
In the fall, Chief Constable Burns says, “Policing is political here”. This is also clear in Bloodlands, where paramilitary links seem to be influencing the process and various tactics used by the police to “keep the peace”.
Many of the on-screen officials have a “past” in the conflict – in some cases, this drives the narrative (Bloodlands); In other cases, a plot that focuses on current events (The Fall) is augmented with a backstory.
For those watching in England, Scotland, and Wales, a Northern Irish police officer is an ambiguous figure. You are allegedly a UK national who complies with the law, but your complex backstory, which is characterized by your family or work experiences with the conflict, makes you unique. You are an insider and an outsider at the same time.
An Irish policeman abroad
Line of Duty explores the complexities not only for Catholic police officers but also for the generations of people who left Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles caused by Ted Hastings.
Hastings (“the epitome of an ancient battle,” as he himself says) was the product of one mixed marriagewith a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. Trained in Northern Ireland to become one of the few Catholic officers in the early days of the PSNI, he moved to England due to escalating sectarian violence and anti-Catholic harassment in the force.
With years of monitoring corruption and the target of harassment, he was well placed to weed it out as head of Anti-Corruption Division 12 (AC-12). Ted’s motivations can be summed up with his continued admission: “We only care about one thing here and only one thing, and that catches bent copper heads.” Knowing that he was shaped by a background in which he experienced devastating cover-ups allows us a deeper understanding of his determined determination to eradicate corruption.
His complicated past is an asset to his work, but it is also an obstacle. Despite moving across the Irish Sea, he cannot completely rid himself of everything that has happened in Northern Ireland. Dark episodes from his time at PSNI were used against him to discredit or embroil him in other crimes in attempts by criminals to evade getting caught by Hastings and his crack team at AC-12.
In this strong, controversial context, Superintendent Ted Hastings is admired almost everywhere. Much of this admiration is due to Dunbar, who added several Northern Irish dialect phrases – “Ted isms“Like the popular” Now we’re sucking diesel “- based on the script that made it cult status.
While other characters are literally in the “line of service” more often, Ted’s presence is focused on the station and his annoyance at the political maneuvers at headquarters. He acts as the heart around which the plot revolves, with dependable outrage over “bent copper” and an obligation to the “letter of the law”.
You can see why at availableA police officer dedicated to fighting corruption would be attractive to the audience. As this season draws to a close and we fear for the future of Ted and AC-12, the on-screen presence of the Northern Irish Police Officer enables the audience to better understand what is happening in Northern Ireland and to humanize the complex debates surrounding the future of Policing in the UK.