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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 15:58 GMT
RUC reforms: A new era for policing in Northern Ireland?
The RUC has changed its name to the Police Service of Northern Ireland as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The head of the new force Sir Ronnie Flanagan has urged all sides in Northern Ireland to keep politics out of policing in the province. He said there was now a real chance for the service to have the full endorsement of Protestants and Catholics, including republicans.

The Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party have agreed to nominate representatives to the new Police Board that will oversee the running of the service.

Sinn Fein is the only party in the province that refuses to endorse the reformed service, but Sir Ronnie said he believed the party would eventually back the new arrangements.

Forty-seven of 48 recruits drawn equally from the Catholic and Protestant communities are among the first batch of trainees for the new force.

Is this a new era for policing in Northern Ireland? Do you approve of the proposed changes to the police services in the province? Will this play a key role in improving the current political climate?


As a Catholic ex-member of the RUC I tell you all that we have been very lucky to have had this force

Robert, Northern Ireland
As a Catholic ex-member of the RUC I have seen bigots in the past working as RUC officers. Thankfully they have almost all gone. I tell you all that we have been very lucky to have had the RUC. Yes there have been some idiots in the force, but you get them everywhere. We are very lucky in Northern Ireland to have such a professional police force. I travelled recently and spoke to a lot of other nationalities and worked with their police forces. You think we have problems here? You don't know how well off we are. Let's not forget all the officers who were murdered in cold blood. I ask you all: is one life, any life worth a single piece of land. It's like two fleas fighting over who owns the dog. The mountains and valleys of this beautiful country will be here long after we have all gone, let's share it in peace.
Robert, Northern Ireland

Sunday was a sad day for those of us who have come to cherish the name of the RUC. To watch the removal of badges and signs from the front of stations was sickening. It is a betrayal of those who have paid the supreme sacrifice. People feel let down, and especially by the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party who failed to make any significant effort to retain the name and symbols when they had it within their grasp to obtain assurances from the government over this and other vital issues.
Kenny, N Ireland, UK

Now that the RUC has been reformed, when can we see a response from the Irish Government? Will the Gaelic name of the Garda Siochana be changed so as not to offend people of a different cultural heritage? What is the proportion of Protestant officers in that force? Will the Gardai consider changing its outdated uniform to represent an inclusive all-Irish image - perhaps a dark green cloth with an Irish Harp badge? Somehow I don't think so.
Peter Mc, UK

The names of the two main parties in the Republic loosely translate as Warriors of Destiny and the Party of the Gael. Isn't it strange that they don't have to change their names so as not to insult the shrinking protestant population in the Republic? Strange also that their police force's name is in a language that only a small percentage of the population can speak. Stranger still, at the last time of counting I believe there were 14 protestant members of the police force. That isn't a percentage but the number 14. Surely, there should be 50:50 recruitment there until that force is representative? Or am I naive enough to think this is a two way process?
NS, N Ireland

This is becoming ludicrous. We had a bomb in Birmingham and another hoax in Belfast from the republicans. They refuse to even support this new force, so what's the point? Tony has just rolled over again.
DS, Scotland

If the Catholic percentage of Ulster is 41 percent, then surely insisting that they hold 50 percent of posts is in itself unfair representation. If one of the stated aims of the changes was to make government institutions non-political or at least with no overt allegiance to either the UK or Republic of Ireland then surely logic dictates that SF/IRA, the UUP et al, should have to change their names recruitment, and membership to encourage mandatory cross community participation. That is of course if bridge building and "parity of esteem" was ever the original aim of the Patton Report on the RUC and not some underhanded deal perpetrated by an ineffective and incompetent politician on behalf of a sell-out government.
Neil Bowers, England

The RUC may only be a name, but it meant so much to the people of Northern Ireland

Gareth, Northern Ireland
I would like to express my thanks to all the RUC officers and British Army for all their hard work over the years in Northern Ireland, protecting thousands of innocent people against evil terrorists acts, and in some unfortunate cases giving their lives. It's just so unfortunate that a few narrow-minded people could not see what these heroes did for both sides of the community. The RUC may only be a name, but it meant so much to the people of Northern Ireland. Again many thanks to the RUC.
Gareth, Northern Ireland

It will certainly be a different system than was there previously but how, in a democratic society, can you justify 50 percent representation by around 30 percent of the population? Once again our government has given in to terrorists and criminals' demands. The other point is that the RUC have done a wonderful job in extremely difficult conditions and should be applauded, not condemned.
Phil T, Oman

I think it's a sad day when the Royal Ulster Constabulary changes its name. But as usual with this government, give all and get nothing in return. A few weapons were put out of use but it's funny the way we don't know how many or where. To all in the RUC it's a very sad day not just for yourselves but your colleagues in the British Army.
British soldier, England

The comment from the British soldier explains why radical changes had to be made when he calls the RUC colleagues. Army and police are completely different - one military the other civilian.
Simon Atkinson, UK

The name may change, some of the officers may be changed, but the RUC was, and still will be, the best and most professional police service in the world. It has the most experience in combating terrorism, riot control and intelligence gathering against organised crime. Sinn Fein may have forced a name change because they hate the crown. Those dedicated officers know where the real work lies. Just do not bring in laws where released prisoners have rights over the police to employ them as part of a peace deal. With the war apparently over, all paramilitaries are now just plain criminals with no political rights.
Alan Cameron, Scotland

Unionists largely see these changes as some kind of disaster

Sandra Healy, Waterford, Ireland
Clearly, the changes in the Patten Report were justified. Not only that, they were long overdue. Over 41 percent of the people of Northern Ireland are Catholics, yet only nine percent of the RUC is. That situation naturally made Catholics distrust the force, given the sectarian divisions that have traditionally characterised NI society. The new requirement that 50 percent of new recruits be Catholic while 50 percent are Protestant will ensure that both sides can trust the force. Unionists largely see these changes as some kind of disaster. But at the end of the day, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be far more effective if both sides of the community trust them, and a change of name seems a small price to pay for that.
Sandra Healy, Waterford, Ireland

So the RUC will change its name - big deal. This is not police reform in the province and many nationalists will see their new "police service" as simply a British force on their streets just as the RUC has been. My suggestion is that the old force be disbanded and new forces be established on a county basis as is the system on the mainland of the UK. The RUC is a very big force that serves 1.7m people. More effective policing could occur if smaller forces directly served their own areas on a county basis. Furthermore, recruitment could take place dependant upon an individual's knowledge or experience of one of the six counties. I believe that this would eventually lead to more Catholics serving in the police for their respective counties.

As for the issue of the symbol of the Crown - it would not be an issue. The emblem of each county's force could simply be the county's coat of arms. Londonderry could split 50-50 between badges reading "Derry" and those reading "Londonderry". Perhaps this system could lead to an eventual formation of community policing in NI. At the moment, the police in NI simply act as a peacekeeping force in a war zone.
Mike, Czech Republic

Why doesn't the RUC just become the same as the police here on the mainland? Why do they dress differently and have different vehicles? If they were the same then maybe the nationalists would not get so wound up by them. Their name for a start must have been a sore point. They should have been called the same as our police forces i.e. Northern Ireland Police Service instead of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The word Royal is not what the nationalists want to see. It seems they were made differently on purpose and if so it has backfired badly.
Gareth Prior, England

The people of NI, from both sides, will appreciate the removal of the "Royal" from the title

Graham, UK
I am sure that the people of NI, from both sides, will appreciate the removal of the Royal" from the title. In the name of peace, people from both sides have to compromise, however unfair this may seem to one side or another, and this is but a minor change that can only have positive results if the new force represents the people of NI evenly and fairly regardless of gender, religion or colour.
Graham, UK

It will be great to see more Catholics in the police in Northern Ireland. That has always been the aim of the RUC anyway. More support from more sections of the community is a worthy goal. That is the reason why so many Catholics didn't join in the past. But losing the name and the dignity of the police force that fought terrorism for so long is an absolute disgrace. Those who try to force police officers to take down memorials in the police stations should hang their heads in shame. Where is your pride and loyalty to the many dead and disabled officers, and to their families whose lives have been so permanently changed.

Shame on you for doing that. I was in a police station in Canada a little while back. What a different attitude they take with their heroes. On the main wall in the foyer was a massive tribute saying: "We salute our fallen heroes, killed in the line of duty." It brought tears to my eyes thinking of what our officers suffered during the troubles and how the government, and in some cases senior RUC officers, are trying to make the history of the RUC disappear.

We should all now give our backing to the new PSNI as they will have a very difficult job to perform. Good luck to the new Catholic officers and I'm sure they will all be proud of the new police force and serve the people of NI well. But now is a time to stand up and be counted, don't let the bully boys erase the history of the RUC and of the brave men and women who served in it. Long live the RUC and the PSNI. I wonder if the IRA had asked for the Paratroop Regiment to be renamed and for all its history and emblems to be erased or changed. How would the government have reacted to that?
Jeff, Canada

A very sad day. This government it seems will bury everything and anything in order to appease terrorists. The most unprincipled government ever will avoid conflict at all costs and fail to defend the institutions that we are most proud of.

It's the appearance that affects people

Peter, Finland
The change of name surely isn't a lot, but it's the appearance that affects people. I don't have a doubt that this will change the image of the former RUC. After that, it's all up to PSNI to choose what line to take.
Peter, Finland

If a name change is perceived as necessary for the RUC, then surely the same holds true for the political parties of Northern Ireland.
Hugh Brown, Canada

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See also:

02 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Flanagan: Police will embrace change

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