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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
SIR RONNIE FLANAGAN CHIEF CONSTABLE OF THE RUC JULY 9TH, 2000

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

DAVID FROST
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable of the RUC is in charge of the police operation at Drumcree and every other police operation in Northern Ireland and he joins us now from Belfast, Ronnie good morning.

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Good morning.

DAVID FROST
How do you approach today with, with confidence or with tremors of fear or what?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Well in relation to Drumcree we've seen a certain stabilisation of the situation over the past 48 hours, sane voices are beginning to rise in the assent and I'm confident that those voices will hold sway because it's people in communities that have been affected by the sort of things that Denis Murray was describing there and the people in those communities are beginning to say who's affected by this, what does it achieve, we want no part of it. So of course there are people of malevolent intent as we've seen in past years but I think people of more sane disposition are beginning to isolate them. So we will approach today understanding how deeply people feel, we will approach today giving every opportunity for legitimate protest but we will not tolerate violence.

DAVID FROST
And as Denis says water cannon is an old fashioned remedy in these situations but that's come back into force for today as well, well hopefully not to be needed to be used today but that's your main prop?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Well it's not the main prop, it's an extra facility, it's all part of our graduated response, we had them last year, we deployed them on the ground but didn't actually use them. Now during the week I used them at Drumcree because the circumstances were such that their use was appropriate. Denis talked about gun and blast bomb attacks on my officers and I again deployed military colleagues on the streets in Belfast to thwart that intent that some people had to carry out attacks upon us. These are people who have nothing to do with the Orange institution and within the Orange institution want nothing to do, these are thugs, criminals, fringe so-called Loyalists who want to seek this as an excuse primarily to carry out attacks upon my officers. But as we saw in Stewartstown last night, those who carry out attacks, and we - although it's too soon to be definitive - would assess that's probably the work of the Real IRA, carry out attacks on communities, not attacks upon us because there's a clearance operation still ongoing, but it seems that our station has suffered only minor damage, it's houses in the vicinity that have borne the brunt, the local church, so these are attacks upon communities, these are not attacks upon us carried out by thieves in the night.

DAVID FROST
And you were talking about thugs and so on and it does seem to a lot of people that basically Drumcree seems to be in danger of being hijacked by extremist Loyalists and thugs and there's a quote here in the Observer this morning which says the highest echelons of the RUC had debated whether the force would recommend to Peter Mandelson that Loyalist prisoners recently released from prison should be re-arrested following the violence of the past week, did that, was that considered?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
When prisoners are arrested they are released from prison under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, they're released under very stringent conditions and we will be examining the activities of all people who have been released to make sure that they adhere to those conditions. If they fail to adhere to those conditions I will not hesitate to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State that such people should be recalled to prison.

DAVID FROST
Mr Adair might fall in that category presumably?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
He should watch his behaviour very closely because we'll be watching his behaviour very closely.

DAVID FROST
What about the arguments in one paper here, plastic bullet rules put RUC at risk?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
I certainly will not put my officers unduly at risk, my officers are the most courageous that I know and on a daily basis they put themselves at risk but it's my duty to see that they have the equipment and to see that they have the tactics and training and to see that they are deployed in circumstances where their safety is paramount. So where circumstances are life-threatening and where circumstances make it appropriate to use plastic baton rounds we will do so but only in such circumstances.

DAVID FROST
And does the overall prospect of this, do you fear that this is going to go on every year, I mean do you see any signs of progress in this particular area?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Of course there are signs of great progress, you know people should remember that there are more than 3,000 parades each year, it's only a very tiny proportion of parades in respect of which the Parades Commission issue determinations and impose conditions and Drumcree of course is prime in most people's consideration. But right throughout the problems and in Belfast for example, there are other decisions in respect of which people also feel deeply but sensible arrangements are arrived at. So we're making progress but do not under-estimate how deeply people feel about these matters, in many senses it's a microcosm of the situation we face generally in Northern Ireland, so we are making progress┐However deeply people feel I urge them today to engage only in lawful, legitimate, peaceful protest┐ facilitate such protest.

DAVID FROST
And as for a headline like "Let us march or we kill a Catholic a day" sectarian murder haunts Northern Ireland again, is that a, something you have to take seriously, a threat like that?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
I'm aware of that report in the newspaper this morning and we have no reliable intelligence upon which that report should be based. People do remember of course 1996 when Mr Aldrich was abducted and murdered by terrorists so there are people of such evil intent and we can't under-estimate that but we have no intelligence that would substantiate the report that's in today's newspaper in that regard.

DAVID FROST
Were you happy at the news yesterday of Peter Mandelson saying that he was going to have incorporating the RUC as part of the title of the new police force, did that seem like progress to you?

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Well I have said many times how deeply my officers, retired officers and bereaved families feel about the title of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and it's not for any political vestige, it's because we see it as our brand in the policing world. But that debate has now moved to Parliament and let's have it conducted in Parliament and let's get on with the legislation and then let's implement as quickly as possible whatever comes out of that legislation following the parliamentary debate.

DAVID FROST
Thank you very much for joining us this morning, we, we hope you have a peaceful day.

RONNIE FLANAGAN
Thank you very much indeed, good morning.

DAVID FROST
Good morning to Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

END

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