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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
RUC changeover date confirmed
Policing issue has been deeply divisive between parties
Policing issue has been deeply divisive
The Northern Ireland secretary has confirmed the Royal Ulster Constabulary will become the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 4 November.

The powers of the new Policing Board, which will hold the new police service and the chief constable to account, will then take effect.

It is planned that the board, which has 10 political members and nine non-political members, will meet in the week following the changeover.

The first 308 recruits to the PSNI, recruited on a 50:50 Catholic: Protestant basis, will also begin their training on 4 November.

'Important step"

Making the announcement on Tuesday, John Reid said: "This is a significant moment for all who have served in, or been associated with, the RUC and for all of us who have benefited from their service.

Northern Ireland secretary
John Reid: "PSNI will be new service for a new era"
"The Police Service of Northern Ireland will be a new service for a new era, it will be a service that grows out of the great contribution of the RUC."

Dr Reid said the government had met its commitment, made in January 2000 "to keep faith with the new recruits by bringing into force a new title when the recruits arrive in training".

'Some changes will take time'

The Northern Ireland secretary acknowledged that "it will take some time to change all references to the name on stations, the 1,000 or so police forms and leaflets".

But he said the work to change these would be carried out "as quickly as possible".

He added that as outlined in the Police Act, the Police Service of Northern Ireland title would contain the reference "incorporating the RUC".

Dr Reid said that as the architect of policing reform in Northern Ireland, Chris Patten, recommended police memorials would remain as they are and where they are.

The Northern Ireland secretary pointed out that the Act contained provisions to set up a George Cross Foundation to mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the RUC.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "We will provide the same courageous service"

This was welcomed by RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said.

Sir Ronnie added: "We are sad to see the proud title of the RUC being changed, but as the PSNI we are committed to giving all the people of Northern Ireland the same dedicated and courageous service that we have always given."

Dr Reid also confirmed a decision on the emblem and flag of the new police service would be put to the Policing Board and other statutory consultees shortly.

He made it clear that if there was no agreement on these issues he would act in line with the Patten recommendations.

Mixed reaction

The Ulster Unionist Party has four seats on the Police Board, the Democratic Unionist Party has three and the nationalist SDLP has three.

Alex Attwood:
Alex Attwood: "This shows the new beginning to policing has started"
Sinn Fein refused to endorse the new police service and declined to take its seats which were re-allocated.

One of the SDLP's representatives to the board, Alex Attwood, said the announcement "shows symbolically and substantially that a new beginning to policing is under way".

Ulster Unionist board member Lord Kilclooney said his party intended to make it clear while sitting on the board that they believed some of the Patten police reforms contravened the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

He added, however: "I hope we can get past issues like the badge and emblems and move through the real challenges for policing in Northern Ireland such as the increasing threat from drugs and the continuing security threat."

Ian Paisley Junior:
Ian Paisley Junior: "This is a two fingered salute to the Policing Board"
Democratic Unionist Party police board member Ian Paisley junior said the announcement was a "two-fingered salute" to the Policing Board, which he said should should have been consulted before the decision was taken.

Acting chairman of the Police Federation Jimmy Spratt said the organisation was "surprised the name of the force was changing in advance of a meeting of the Policing Board and that it is being done without any consultation".

He said that this "did not augur well for the ability of the Policing Board to avoid politics and to concentrate on its need to provide direction to a totally accountable police service".

The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Police reform has been one of toughest issues in the peace process"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Sinn Fein urged to back police reform
29 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police Board members announced
21 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
RUC title 'may go' by November
21 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Unionists sign up to Police Board
19 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Targets on policing change published
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