William Matchett Northern Ireland, UK

  • Former Detective Inspector working for the Special Branch in the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross and Police Service of Northern Ireland.
  • Author of 2016 book "Secret Victory: The Intelligence War that Beat the IRA."
  • Senior Researcher at the Kennedy Institute for conflict prevention.


Dr William Matchett is a security expert, author and academic.  He was in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross, holding the rank of Detective Inspector. For most of his 30-year career he was in the intelligence department – Special Branch.

His international credentials range from training law enforcement organisations in Jakarta and Zagreb on anti-corruption to implementing programmes in Helmand and Baghdad on intelligence-led policing. Currently, he is a Senior Researcher at the Kennedy Institute for conflict prevention.

In 2006 he briefed the Pentagon on a police building programme, going on to lead the training element of this in Iraq and then Afghanistan.  During his tenure, both programmes were widely praised by the US Armed Services Committee.

He has lectured internationally on counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency. In November 2016 he published Secret Victory: The Intelligence War that Beat the IRA.  Many respected observers both sides of the Atlantic see Secret Victory as a significant contribution to increasing our understanding of modern conflict.

Dr William Matchett contends that political correctness, fear of litigation, risk aversion and unrealistic expectations on human rights in recent ‘small wars’ impede the international community’s capacity to counter threats at source. Or what is commonly called, going upstream.  Police organisations today are liberally sensitive obese bureaucracies.  They are not lean or mean enough to get ahead of a threat in an armed conflict in order to stop it.  Neither were they designed for this purpose.

Dr Matchett has also experienced and studied the UK’s inquiry culture and warns against this in historical inquiries focused on recent conflicts.  He explains that these work against service personnel in a post-conflict context, especially where former terrorists become part of a government they had vowed to destroy.  This has been done by failing to frame the correct context; ignoring the weaknesses of memory; and an affliction to hindsight bias.

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