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Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable, Police Service for Northern Ireland
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable, Police Service for Northern Ireland
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW:
SIR RONNIE FLANAGAN CHIEF CONSTABLE, POLICE SERVICE OF NORTHERN IRELAND NOVEMBER 4TH, 2001

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

DAVID FROST:
It's another morning, of course, of political upheaval in Northern Ireland, but it's not just the politics that's changing, the police force is too. From midnight last night the Royal Ulster Constabulary ceased to exist under that name and the new organisation, with many of the same people but called the Police Service of Northern Ireland has taken its place. And so in his very first television interview in his new job I'm joined now from Belfast by its Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan. Ronnie, good morning.

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
Good morning.

DAVID FROST:
You're not in your old uniform but this morning you're in a very attractive jacket, but you're not in your new uniform either?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
Not as yet because the uniform won't change for some time, the new police board has in consultation with the Secretary of State, to decide exactly what the new crest will be, but this morning undoubtedly like all of my colleagues, I'm experiencing a whole range of emotions, at this time of annual remembrance I think of course of our widows, our bereaved families, our disabled officers, this is a difficult weekend for them. But I'm feeling overwhelmingly proud this morning, very proud to have been the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and very proud now today to be Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and to see later this morning our new trainees who start an entirely new training programme to bring about, hopefully a more peaceful future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

DAVID FROST:
And the, these first recruits are 50-50 between Protestant and Catholic aren't they?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
That, that's right, for the rest of this financial year we'll be training more than 300 new trainees and then we'll be aiming for some 600 trainees annually thereafter, recruited on a religious basis on that 50-50 rule.

DAVID FROST:
And when, when might the force, because it takes time obviously, would the force be 50-50 in five or ten years time?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
It'll certainly take something of that order but what's much more important than actually crunching the numbers or counting heads is the creation of a culture where equality of opportunity for all is offered, where celebration of diversity is the order of the day, where respect for individual dignity is the order of the day and where human rights are promoted and maintained and protected for all. That's the culture we're embracing and that's even more important than actually counting people either in terms of gender or in terms of religious denomination.

DAVID FROST:
Absolutely, and in terms of the future, you said this week, anyone who knows the history of Irish Republicanism knows that the decision to take this step, that's the IRA's decommissioning, is much more important and significant than the amount of material actually affected, therefore we're the closest yet in my estimation to saying that the war waged by the Provisional IRA is over. You are an optimist this morning?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
I am an optimist and I have real basis for being hopeful, the events in Birmingham overnight and I've been in touch with my colleagues in the Anti-Terrorist Unit in Scotland Yard, a very sharp reminder to us all that there are people who have no political analysis to offer, there are people who just want to wreck prospects for permanent peace. Now thankfully colleagues in the Gardai Siochana in the South of Ireland, my own colleagues, my colleagues right throughout British policing and internationally have seriously dented the intentions and capability of these people in the past and we're determined to continue to work together. So I think as Kate, I heard Kate reviewing the papers, she's absolutely right, we can't live our lives according to these people or being dictated to by them. But we do require a degree of vigilance and a public exhibit that vigilance and work in partnership with police then we can eliminate the threat that these people would seek to pose.

DAVID FROST:
And how soon is it realistic to think we might have an unarmed police force in Northern Ireland again, is that ever going to happen, that day?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
Oh I, I have every confidence that it will happen, we will probably always have to maintain an armed capability to deal with instances of armed criminality but I would certainly dearly love to see the day when my officers don't have to be routinely armed for their own protection because it is primarily that reason, their own protection, that has brought the need for that about. So progressively I would like to see that threat eliminated so that officers do not have to be routinely armed but it will take some time and that's the reality of life.

DAVID FROST:
Should we be specifically concerned about the bomb we've heard about in Birmingham, do you think that has, as they seem to imply, Real IRA roots?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
Well in discussion with my colleagues in Great Britain, even though it's at an early stage we do believe that it is the dissident group and probably that group that is behind this. And they would want to demonstrate this day that they're still there. But I have to say that through all the good work of policing colleagues, right across the world indeed in terms of their attempted procuration attempts as well, through all that good work thankfully at this stage, although we can't be complacent about it, their intentions, their desire far exceeds their ability and it's our job to make sure that that continues to be the case.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of Sinn Fein joining the Police Board, do you think that will happen in short-order?

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
I'm not sure whether it'll happen in the short-order but I have every confidence it'll happen, it'll have to happen and they'll have to grasp their responsibility because they have to realise that it's only with full support from people of totally differing views that policing can truly be enhanced to the degree that it should. So every degree of support that is withheld has some deleterious effect on policing and I think it's time for them to accept their responsibilities. It's very easy to complain, it's easy to complain from the outside, it's time for them to get in the inside and if they want to see change be a part of that change and be part of it in a positive way.

DAVID FROST:
Ronnie, thank you very much for joining us this morning and we wish you, in a year or so's time will it be a very happy retirement but you'll be missed.

RONNIE FLANAGAN:
Thank you very much indeed. Good morning.

DAVID FROST:
Good morning.

END


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