James Flanagan (police officer)

Sir James Bernard Flanagan KBE (15 January 1914 – 4 April 1999) was the only Roman Catholic Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Known as 'Jamie Flanagan', he was born in Derry in Ulster. He was raised near Killygordon, a village in the east of County Donegal and also in Ulster. Sir Jamie Flanagan was no relation of the other, better-known, RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan. Sir Jamie's father was a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). In 1934 Jamie Flanagan joined the RUC. In 1939 he was transferred from Downpatrick to County Fermanagh and was made Sergeant. In the same year he married Florence Acheson, a Protestant. In 1941 he was appointed Head Constable in Derry. In 1942 he became a District Inspector and was transferred to the security control unit which had sensitive wartime responsibilities.

In 1945 he was seconded for duty with the British mission to Greece and served there until 1952. He was also appointed a MBE. He returned to the RUC, working in B Division of West Belfast in the late 1950s. In 1961 he was promoted to County Inspector and was appointed an OBE, just before the outbreak of the Troubles, in June 1968. In June 1970 he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable and in July 1973 he was appointed a CBE, becoming Chief Constable on 1 November 1973, replacing Sir Graham Shillington. In July 1974 he survived an IRA bombing attempt on a plane he was travelling in[1]

In June 1975 he received a knighthood and retired in April 1976. Having been targeted by Republicans while attending Mass, he was forced to retire to England.[2]

Not a 'political' ChiefEdit

Although Flanagan avoided political comment, his tenure as Chief Constable was marked by controversy. It coincided with the Ulster Workers' Council Strike of 1974 and the Provisional Irish Republican Army's (IRA) temporary ceasefire in 1975. There were many, including senior members of the power-sharing executive forced out of office by the strike, who felt that the RUC did not act vigorously enough against the strikers.[2] The police, however, did not control security policy in regard to the Troubles during this period - which was instead decided by the Army.[2] Some felt that the RUC went easy on the IRA due to being manipulated politically.[2] Flanagan felt that some in the hierarchy of his own church treated him with a certain coolness.[2]


Sir James Flanagan died on 4 April 1999, aged 85.[where?]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Graham Shillington
Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
1973 — 1976
Succeeded by
Kenneth Newman


  1. ^ "Sir James Flanagan (1914 - 1999)". Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e The Independent 20 April 1999[dead link]