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Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW: SIR RONNIE FLANAGAN AUGUST 5TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS: Well listening to all that is Sir Ronnie Flanagan who we all as the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary but he also does a lot of strategy work on how we should maintain public order right across the United Kingdom for the Association of Chief Police Officers. Ronnie, good morning.

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Good morning.

PETER SISSONS: Are you, are you in favour of police officers being issued with stun guns?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Well I'm certainly in favour of the research to determine whether it should be part of the range of tactical options that we can deploy. You know since October last year with the passing of the Human Rights Act what is clear is that even those who set out to take life have a right to have their lives protected so what we must do in all circumstances is behave in a proportionate way, behave in a way that's necessary, behave in a way that's lawful. So certainly it's well worth the research to determine whether this is an option that we should have available to us in appropriate circumstances. But those circumstances, I guess, would be actually rather limited.

PETER SISSONS: And you wouldn't expect ever to see them on, on the streets of Northern Ireland perhaps, where, where the problem is different?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: A different sort of circumstances but I think it's wrong to think that this is a, an option in public order that would have widespread application. For example the range within which these things work is very limited, it's something of the order of 20, 21 feet so in public order situations once people come up as close as that the police officers, once people who come up within that range with an intent to endanger life then the use of such a thing is, is rather limited. But in certain defined limited circumstances it may have a use. But can I say, I share Simon's reservation but I would want to assure the public at large there is no risk whatever of the police service drifting towards a culture. What we're talking about and what my colleagues in two forces are talking about is DPO research using volunteers so there's no question whatever of these or any other things being operationally deployed without that widespread research in advance.

PETER SISSONS: Perhaps the stun gun, because it's got these sort of high-tech connotations, sci-fi connotations, is a bit of a distraction because surely the need is for a range of new measures to control widespread outbreaks of public disorder, like we've seen on the streets of Britain this summer and we've also seen them, we see them regularly of course in Northern Ireland but we've also seen them following these G7 summits around the world?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Absolutely and as always, of course, prevention is much better than cure and what's really important is that we derive means of gathering intelligence about what the intentions of people who would seek to engage in violence are and thereby seek to thwart their intentions, so it's important that we have full coordination, it's important that we gather intelligence, that we assess intelligence and that we always act to prevent these things. Now the reality of life is of course that having engaged in all those practices there are going to be people who are determined to engage in violence so what we as a police service in order to protect the public at large must do is engage in research, have available to use the widest range of tactical options so that we can apply tailor-made solutions to situations that arise.

PETER SISSONS: What was your professional view, Sir Ronnie, of how the Italian police handled the violence at Genoa?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Well it's difficult to say in relation to something that's clearly under investigation, but looking at situations that have arisen, first of all I would want to say police officers are in desperately difficult circumstances and desperately difficult situations but looking at Seattle, looking at Quebec, looking at Genoa, looking at Gothenberg, I think people have to realise that, that in our circumstances what we invariably do is very restrained, what we invariably do is proportional, what we invariably do is limited and I think increasingly we are sharing our experience internationally and certainly throughout Europe and I think what we must do is devise a model for an approach to public order whereby we share experience, whereby we come together, whereby we coordinate our intelligence and our effort and whereby we know the potential troublemakers and seek to take steps early enough to prevent them becoming engaged.

PETER SISSONS: Can I ask you to put on your RUC hat, well you've got, you've got your RUC kit on, and just turn for a moment to the Real IRA whose, who have left their mark on Ealing Broadway this week, it said that the Irish police, the Gardai have had far greater success against the Real IRA than the RUC, is that true and if it is why do you think it is?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Well, well it's not true, we've had a whole range of successes as have our colleagues in the Gardai Siochana and I would want to again publicly congratulate them. But we work very much in a collaborative way and when I say we I don't mean simply the RUC and the Gardai Siochana I mean colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service, I mean colleagues internationally, so together we've brought a whole range of successes against these people but occasionally they do succeed. Now that's no comfort whatever to your victims of incidents when they do succeed but people should realise that these are problems that the police alone cannot solve.

PETER SISSONS: Are there¿

RONNIE FLANAGAN: And what we need is full public cooperation.

PETER SISSONS: What's your judgement, Sir Ronnie are they a growing threat, are they getting bigger, are they getting more dangerous or do you expect a breakthrough against them?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Well we've had a whole range of breaksthrough against them and that has certainly thwarted their intention, that has certainly minimised the effect that they can bring about, but that should not lead us to a situation of under-estimating their potential. They are a very real threat and if you plotted their terrorist capability against the growth curve of, for example, the Provisional IRA and their capability you would find that these people are quite a distance along that curve. So the public must be vigilant, the public must be alert to possibilities, suspicious activity and must alert the police when they see suspicious activity, whether it's in Great Britain, whether it's in Northern Ireland or whether it's in the Republic of Ireland because it's only in that atmosphere of cooperation that we can really bring to an end the activity that these people seek to engage in.

PETER SISSONS: Now there's a lot, just briefly, Sir Ronnie, there's a lot of speculation this weekend that the forces of law and order know who these ring leaders of the Real IRA are, they know who they're looking for, has there been a breakthrough, do you know who's responsible for the Ealing bomb?

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Well we certainly have suspicions, but thankfully in a Liberal democracy intelligence is not evidence and the difficulty is of course that there are organisations and there are people in organisations who seek to exploit the freedoms in Liberal democracy and therefore that's why it's of crucial importance that the public at large continually work in partnership with us. So yes we have our suspicions, yes I have no doubt we will bring to justice those people but to continually engage in that sort of success we need full public cooperation and understanding. The public of course are outraged when these things happen and that's absolutely proper but what they must do is translate that outrage into determination to work in partnership with us.

PETER SISSONS: Sir Ronnie Flanagan thank you for joining us this morning.

RONNIE FLANAGAN: Thank you, good morning.

END


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