Garda commissioner leads tributes to academic Dr Vicky Conway who leaves ‘important legacy’ on policing

An Garda Síochána Commissioner Drew Harris has led the tributes to Dr Vicky Conway, a “highly regarded commentator on policing reform”, who has died unexpectedly at home.

Jul 21, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Dr Vicky Conway

An associate professor of Law at Dublin City University (DCU), Dr Conway was appointed to the first board of the Policing Authority in January 2016, before leaving the Authority to sit on the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland in 2017, and later being reappointed to the Authority in 2018.

Mr Harris said: “An Garda Síochána is saddened to learn of the death of Dr Vicky Conway.

“Dr Conway made a significant contribution to policing here and in the UK through her academic research, publications and lectures, as well as her membership of both the Policing Authority and the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

“Vicky’s passion for human rights-focused policing was evident in all her engagements with myself and my Garda colleagues. She was a strong and dedicated advocate for vulnerable members of society and minority communities.

“An Garda Síochána sends its condolences to Vicky’s family and friends.”

The Policing Authority said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of its former member who made an “invaluable contribution” to its work.

In a statement it added: “Vicky brought unique expertise and insight to the oversight of policing in Ireland, drawing on her significant academic work in this area – which itself drew on her keen attention to the experiences of the many people she engaged with to produce that work. Vicky briefly left the Authority to sit on the Commission on the Future of Policing in 2017 before being reappointed in 2018.

“Vicky’s commitment to securing the best possible policing service for victims, offenders and all those who interact with the Garda Síochána was reflected in the time and energy she devoted to this work and the generosity with which she shared that knowledge with her colleagues.”

Authority chair Bob Collins said Dr Conway’s oversight of policing leaves an “important legacy”.

He said: “Vicky’s contribution to policing was rooted not only in academic curiosity but in a genuine desire to ensure that everyone’s engagement with the Garda Síochána, in particular those most vulnerable in our society, was rooted in a respect for their humanity and a vindication of their human rights.

“Her contribution to, and impact on the work of the Authority and the oversight of policing is an important legacy for which we should all be very grateful. Those of us who worked very closely with Vicky witnessed not only her passion for oversight but her strong appreciation of the challenging work that police officers perform on our behalf and a desire to improve things on the ground for them.

“The Authority extends its deepest sympathies to Vicky’s family and friends.”

Dr Conway’s death comes less than a week after the Policing Authority commissioned her to explore the experience and perceptions of policing within diverse and minority communities in Ireland.

Ireland’s Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she was “deeply saddened” to hear of the death of Dr Conway.

“Vicky made an important contribution to Irish society through her academic and professional work,” she said.

“She was a member of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and served two terms as a member of the Policing Authority, making a substantial contribution to developing the oversight of policing in Ireland.

“Her voice has been a prominent one in relation to policing and criminal justice, and was at all times one of conviction and challenge. Her deep commitment to the human rights of the most vulnerable was evident in all of her work.

“I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Vicky’s family and loved ones, her friends, colleagues and all the students she inspired through her teaching. Vicky’s untimely passing has shocked and saddened us all.”

Dr Conway joined DCU in 2015, having previously held positions at the University of Kent, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Limerick and the University of Leeds.

She was made Associate Professor of Law in 2017 and is the School of Law and Government’s first Convenor of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr Conway was a committed socio-legal scholar who believed that academic research should be innovative and aim to directly inform legislative and policy developments. She was a leading researcher on policing in Ireland with an emphasis on the intersection between social change, police culture and police accountability.

She was a highly regarded commentator on policing reform and hosted the podcast Policed in Ireland, which discussed policing issues in the country.

Professor Daire Keogh, president of DCU, said: “Like everyone in the DCU community, I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Vicky’s death. She was one of our most talented and respected academics, who epitomised the DCU mission ‘to transform lives and societies’.

“Vicky was an exceptional teacher and a wonderful colleague, whose contribution to the field of criminal law research represents an important legacy. On behalf of the university I wish to express my deepest condolences to her family and friends at this sad time.”

Dr Ken McDonagh, head of School for Law and Government, added: “Vicky Conway was a wonderful colleague, wise and kind. We will have time in the future to reflect on her exceptional professional achievements but for now we will simply mourn for the friend and colleague who has left us. Vicky will continue to inspire us in our work.”

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