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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
RUC title 'may go' by November
Policing issue has been deeply divisive between parties
Policing issue has been deeply divisive issue
Northern Ireland's police chief has said he expects the RUC to change into the Police Service of Northern Ireland when its new recruits start training in early November.

In a BBC interview on Friday Sir Ronnie Flanagan welcomed the move by Northern Ireland's two main unionist parties to join the nationalist SDLP in endorsing the new service.

On Thursday night both David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party agreed to nominate representatives to the Police Board to which the new service will be accountable.

The main parties have been jointly allocated ten of the 19 seats on the board, which will oversee the change from the Royal Ulster Constabulary into the PSNI.

The chief constable will also be accountable to the board.

Seats re-allocated

Sinn Fein is the only party which has withheld its support from the new policing arrangements and will not take its seats on the Police Board.

Its seats are now being allocated to the other parties - one to the UUP and one to the DUP.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "The concerns about police numbers are legitimate"
Sir Ronnie said: "It is almost definite that we will begin training the new trainees in early November. That is another positive step in the change process.

"I think when the force changes into the Police Service of Northern Ireland is still a matter of discussion between the government and the political parties, but the probability is that at the time of the new trainees beginning training, the title of the organisation will change."

"And if the title changes in November, there will be a process to put in place to choose a new emblem and new badges of rank."

While agreeing to nominate members to the Police Board, both Mr Trimble and Mr Paisley made it clear they still had concerns about some of the policing changes proposed, including plans to phase out the full-time police reserve.

Ulster Unionist leader
David Trimble still has concerns about policing arrangements
Sir Ronnie said: "These are very legitimate concerns, and that is why it is built into the implementation plan that the full-time reserve can only begin a phasing out process out when the security situation allows it and when our operational needs allow it."

The chief constable also welcomed the decision of three of the main parties to participate on the Police Board.

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley: "Disbanding full-time reserve would be disaster"
He said: "It's a tremendously positive development. I have long said that the most debilitating thing for our organisation is the protracted nature of the political debate.

"I accept fully the need for a chief constable and a policing organisation to be fully accountable.

"And it is very positive that there is about to be a board put into place to allow those accountability mechanisms to come into play."

Political deadline

Asked if he believed the terror attacks in the US would have any effect in terms of a move on IRA decommissioning, Sir Ronnie said his intelligences sources had detected "nothing to suggest that an act of decommissioning is imminent".

The UUP and DUP decision to endorse the new service has come as a boost to Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid's efforts to get Northern Ireland's political process back on the rails as the province faces another deadline for progress at midnight on Saturday.

By that time Dr Reid must decide how to prevent the collapse of the Stormont government.

He is expected to suspend the assembly for a short time, which will trigger another six-week period in which attempts to hammer out a deal on the other issues still blocking the process can continue.

The issue of IRA decommissioning remains the main stumbling block, but Dr Reid welcomed the move on policing as "a momentous step forward".


The Ulster Unionist Party's three nominees are John Taylor (now Lord Kilclooney), and assembly members Fred Cobain and James Leslie.

The DUP's nominees are assembly members Ian Paisley junior and Sammy Wilson.

The SDLP has nominated its chairman and policing spokesman Alex Attwood, Eddie McGrady and West Tyrone assembly member Joe Byrne.

The interviews to select the nine independent members who will sit on the board were completed on Wednesday.

It is planned that the first batch of between 260-300 Police Service of Northern Ireland trainees - selected on a 50% Catholic 50% Protestant basis will be on the streets by spring 2002.

The BBC's Greg Mylam
"For the Secretary of State, this is something, at last, to celebrate"
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"It is hugely significant"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists sign up to Police Board
21 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Assembly suspension looms
18 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Paisley holding back on policing
19 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Targets on policing change published
18 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
'Upbeat assessment' of policing plan
12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police recruitment 'will be 50:50'
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