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RUC Reform Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 10:18 GMT
RUC faces wholesale reform
The Patten report contains 175 recommendations
The Patten report contains 175 recommendations

From the archive

The Patten Commission on the future of policing in Northern Ireland has recommended fundamental changes to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The 175 recommendations, which include a new badge, oath of allegiance, uniform and a positive recruitment policy towards Catholics, angered unionists, but failed to meet nationalist and republican demands for disbandment.

The Ulster Unionist Party condemned the changes to the name, badge and flag as a "gratuitous insult" to the RUC.

But the report was welcomed by the Irish Government as "thorough and comprehensive" while SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon called for its speedy implementation.

The report also puts a heavy emphasis on recommendations that Northern Ireland should be policed with a new human rights-based approach.

Sinn Fein said it needed time to fully consider the report. A spokeswoman added: "Nobody wants to see a repackaged version of what was there before."

Another major change is the proposal to replace the Northern Ireland Police Authority with a new police board which will include members of all parties entitled to seats in the Assembly Executive including Sinn Fein.

'Depoliticise the police'

Publishing his report Mr Patten said that a key objective was to "depoliticise" policing.

Nationalists have demanded the abolition of the RUC
He said the commission had not set out to sit in judgement on what had happened in the past.

"Our recommendations take account of all we have heard, and they are designed to ensure that any past mistakes are not repeated and to minimise any prospect of abuses such as those alleged to have taken place in the past.

"We are not here to praise or to blame, but rather to look to the future,'' he said.

If Patten's recommendations are passed into law by the UK Government the RUC would be named the Northern Ireland Police Service.

Non-political symbols

The report states: "The Northern Ireland Police Service should adopt a new badge and symbols which are entirely free from any association with either the British or Irish states."

Serving and new police officers will take a new oath "upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs".

The Union flag will no longer be flown from police buildings and should be replaced by a new Northern Ireland Police Service Flag. Uniforms will stay green, but will change to "a more practical style".

In a peacetime situation the force will be reduced from 13,000 officers to 7,500.

The report says officers should be recruited to the police service by an outside agency, currently 92% Protestant, on an equal basis, for 10 years.

Community leaders are also urged to play their part in helping the force to become more representative of the whole community.

Political party leaders, councillors, bishops, priests and school teachers are told to take steps to remove all discouragements to members of their community joining the police and as a priority should encourage them to apply.

The report also states that the Gaelic Athletic Association should lift its ban on members of the security forces joining that organisation.

Entry requirements will also be brought into line with UK in that "young people should not automatically be disqualified from entry into the police service for relatively minor criminal offences".

The Police Board will be responsible for appointing the Chief Constable and monitoring the force.

Ten of its 19 members will be representatives from parties entitled to seats on the assembly executive, but they will not be members of that executive.

In a peacetime situation the issue of whether officers should be armed will be reviewed, holding centres at Castlereagh and Gough barracks should be closed, police stations should be made "less forbidding," and officers should have their names and numbers clearly marked on their uniforms.

The report states that "an eminent person from a country other than the UK or Ireland" should be appointed to oversee the implementation of the commission's recommendations.

Mr Patten said that in the Good Friday Agreement, under which the commission was set up, people had voted for a new approach and a new beginning in Northern Ireland.

He said: "It has been our strong sense throughout the past fifteen months that the majority are determined that life here should be transformed and that, in spite of the difficulties of moving forward, things must not be allowed to go back to the way they were.

"We propose in this report a transformation of policing that is an integral part of the process of transforming Northern Ireland."

He added: "Our proposals aim to give Northern Ireland policing arrangements which are second to none in the world by any measure - effectiveness, efficiency, impartiality, accountability, representativeness and respect for human rights."

The report's major elements
Chris Patten
Denis Murray, BBC Ireland Correspondent
"The recommendations are understood to contain several major changes"
Chris Patten outlines the RUC review
"Key part of the report is the depoliticisation of policing"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

Key stories


See also:

09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
08 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | RUC Reform
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
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