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Has Patten got it right?

The Patten Commission has recommended that the RUC needs a new badge, oath of allegiance, uniform and a positive recruitment policy towards Catholics.

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Vote:
Has Patten got it right?
Yes No

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Background:

Click here for a summary
Click here for the full report

The Royal Ulster Constabulary faces sweeping reforms after the Patten Commission made 175 recommendations on the future of Northern Ireland's police force.

Proposals include a new name and badge, a change to the oath of allegiance and a positive recruitment policy towards Catholics, with Sinn Fein taking a prominent role in the running of the force.

Chris Patten's report comes as the peace process enters a crucial phase, with former Senator George Mitchell reviewing progress after months of deadlock between unionists and nationalists.

The plan could potentially drive an even bigger wedge between the parties, although Mr Patten says he hopes it will play an important part in building a peaceful future for Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionists condemned plans to change the name and badge as a "gratuitous insult".

Sinn Fein, strongly in favour of disbanding the RUC completely, promised a full debate but said a "repackaged, renamed" force was not sufficient. The SDLP - the largest nationalist party - welcomed the plan, and the Irish Government said it was a "balanced document".

But what do you think?

Has Mr Patten got the balance right in his bid to "take the politics out of policing", or has it failed to map out a sensible future for Northern Ireland's police force?

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Your Reaction:

Read the first comments we received

People seem to think that there is a one way flow of concessions from the Unionist to the Nationalists, the reason this is so is because the Unionists have everything in their favour while the Nationalist have nothing.
If N. Ireland is truly part of the UK then it must start acting like it with equal rights for all. This includes the Police Force, well done Chris Patten.
Jason, Scotland

The impetus to the formation of the Provisional IRA was the attacks on the Nationalist community, led in many cases by members of the police auxiliary. This rationale still forms the base for the widespread support for the IRA in the Nationalist community. To think that the IRA will disarm without a major change in the police force is wishful thinking. If they did so, a new IRA (or one of the splinter groups) would quickly take its place, because despite the ceasefires, arson and physical attacks on the Nationalist community continue.
In these attacks, most notably the murder of attorneys Nelson and Fincaune, collusion by elements of the RUC is suspected. Although the IRA has not succeeded in preventing such attacks except for the short-lived "no-go" zone in Derry years ago, to ask Nationalists to put themselves at the mercy of the existing police force is like asking the sheep to send the guard dogs away before the wolves are de-clawed.
Cooper Whalen, USA

Has Pattern got it right? - Within the terms of reference from the Good Friday Agreement, he has. It is now a shame that the Unionist leaders, who signed up to that Agreement, cannot see that the RUC needs to have the support of the whole community and needs to be de-politicised. There has to be compromise from everyone in the long run if real peace is to be achieved.
Riad Mannan, UK

Too many comments in this discussion focus on the views of extremists. People not familiar with N.I. politics should recognise that it isn't just the republican extremists who are against the current RUC but a lot of people from moderate republican backgrounds. Therefore, think not appeasement to the IRA which is what the Unionist extremists would like you to think.
Dale, UK

I find it, and always have found it obscene that a "Police" force anywhere in the world can have a political allegiance. It is absolutely absurd, disgraceful, and undignified for the people of NI that the RUC still exists. What Patten, a man who I admire greatly, has suggested is common sense and the whole issue should have been he first on the agenda when Peace talks began between Major and Reynolds way back when. I have also noticed a disturbing trend for people to use their grievances against Mr. Patten to condemn the report. Perhaps they should meet up with David Trimble.
Nathan Hamer, Wales

A lot of his recommendations could also be applied to the police in England, Wales & Scotland.
Bryan, UK

It is anathema to me to permit any people to use my flag, my country and my democratic values to hide their own intolerance and stubbornness. They embarrass me, quite frankly, and I think Patten got it just about right. I will accept that there are good people in the RUC (with Unionist, Republican or even neutral sympathies), but the overriding perception is one of an organisation created to maintain the Unionist majority. If, to destroy that perception, it is necessary to rename it and grant it a new charter, then so be it.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

It appears that the most hotly resented parts of the report are those that refer to pomp and ceremony. The Unionist "No Surrender" types care more for oaths and names than content. No one in GB cares if the RUC swears an oath to the Queen or not, or whether they should be "royal", a title only applied to colonial police forces. Sinn Fein/IRA's only contribution so far may be "we'll stick to killing our own for a while" but once the loyalists have been forced to concede as much as possible it will then be the turn of the Nationalists to concede, then we might have a chance of real peace.
Simon J, England

Many here still think the way to beat terrorists is to use more draconian laws and more soldiers. The only way to 'beat' them is to take away the oxygen of support. This can only be done if the way things have been done here changes. The police and soldiers are only valuable but at the end of the day, only temporary measures and we must recognised that they are not the solution. Failure to see this will lead to loss of civil rights and more support for the terrorists from previously moderate people.
H, Belfast

The contents of the report make good policing sense. The recommendations mimic many of the arrangements found in mainland Police Forces in relation to a Police Authority consisting of local elected representatives together with professionals, to which Police are accountable. Similarly, the debates on catholic and protestant recruitment can be likened to the debate on the recruiting of ethnic minorities on the mainland. I therefore see the report as making thoroughly good sense for the future of policing in Northern Ireland. It is only controversial when viewed in isolation of UK policing generally.
Jonathan Drake, Staffs, UK

The Patten report strikes me as the most even handed, balanced bit of tightrope walking I have ever seen. After reading the whole report (how many of the people expressing opinions here have read the report themselves rather than relying on media sound bites, I wonder?) I feel that only those bitter twisted people with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo would not see it as the best way forward.
Ian Lowe, Scotland, UK

Patten was commissioned to make policing in Northern Ireland acceptable to both communities. Instead, he has given in to Republican demands for effective disbandment, and alienated what is, after all, the majority community.
It is widely accepted that the number of Roman Catholics in the RUC needs to be increased, but many Catholic RUC officers have stated time and time again that they have no problem with the name, badge or oath to the Queen. The main problem facing recruitment, arguably, is intimidation from more militant branches of republicanism.
Perhaps Patten should have considered this, instead of demoralising the force which has one of the hardest regions in the world to police.
David Montgomery, Northern Ireland

I am optimistic about most things, however I have the most heart-sinking feeling that this whole peace process will collapse within months & then the emasculated security forces will have no way of defending themselves or the largely peaceful population of Ulster against a well armed, manned & experienced (thanks to the prisoner releases) Republican terror organisation. The Government is only in a position to ignore the Unionists & to pander to the Republicans because the Republicans use the bomb & the bullet to directly threaten the security of the Union. If the loyalists threaten to shoot & bomb the security forces, will the Government start to listen to their wishes for a change?
Elise, UK

The police of a society must reflect the society it polices so those people are policed by consent. The catholic community has long felt the RUC is a Unionist tool and thus don't respect and trust it. The two communities must be seen to be evenly represented in the police force and Patten is moving in this direction. Sadly the die-hards will never see this. I am very glad not to be in politics.
DG Jones, France

As so many Ulster Politicians claim that they are true democrats, lets put them to the test. I suggest a referendum on the future of the RUC. The referendum will consist of one question. Do you think the RUC are an acceptable police force? If over 50% of both communities vote yes, the RUC stay's otherwise it's disbanded.
Sean, Ireland

We must remember Chris Patten was thrown out by his own constituents for not getting things right. If he is not able to do that as a simple MP, I can't see him getting right in the wider area of politics. As with his Governor of Hong Kong, he now gets his jobs via the old school tie (because no one wants him as their local MP) and not on merit.
Tim Forbes, UK

As an expat in HK, I was here when Patten was Governor. Given how honest, intelligent, down-to-earth, unafraid to confront real issues (i.e. those embroiled in China) and unpretentious he was during those years, I was pleased that Patten was to be the man for the job in N. Ireland. He didn't disappoint -his report is another shining example of his incredible ability to cut through all the rubbish and get to the point with a realistic and honest vision. Let's hope we see more of him.
Zoe, Hong Kong

I believe there must be change in the way that the North of Ireland is policed - for too long has the nationalists been excluded from the process. When will the people move into the 21st century. I left 20 years ago because there was no future for myself and my then young family. You still judged not by what you do or say but the school you went to.
Thomas Geehan, USA

I think after reading Mr Sean Stewart's letter that should answer all questions about the Patten report. The fact that the IRA murder innocent catholic and protestant police officers that are trying to do probably one of the toughest jobs going is a disgrace. Anyone that knows anything about N.IRISH POLITICS knows that Catholics are afraid to join the police because of the IRA. The IRA ask for Catholics to join the police force then kill the ones that do. Typical republican logic. Let's not forget their logic, they sent Michael Collins to negotiate a settlement and then murdered him for getting one.
Peter Mathews, USA

The Patten report is just common sense. Why can't N.Irish politicians except such a fair document that can make things in N.Ireland better? The answer is simple, most of the politicians represent the interests of the community they hail from and not the people of N.Ireland as a whole. Lets hope that the two communities grow together, that shopkeepers stop gossiping about a 'mixed' religion couple, that priests join forces with ministers and Catholics and Protestants get together from as early as possible, have fun, dance and drink and inter-marry. Having one community instead of two, will make common sense recommendations more easily acceptable in the interests of the N.Irish people.
Peter, Sweden

The Unionists' objections that Mr Patten is ignoring the RUC's links with the UK are wrong. Their argument is naive in that the whole aim of the review was to depoliticise the RUC and make it more acceptable to the Catholic minority. The whole problem lies with the fact that the RUC is too identified with the Unionists. The police should not be political. Why can't the Unionists recognise this basic principle of a Liberal Democratic state?
John Southan, UK (Studying in the Netherlands)

Times are changing and in most of the western World antiquated Nationalist (republican and Unionists are both Nationalists) political viewpoints have lost validity. Instead pluralism has been embraced and the diametrically opposed can and do live together under a central government. This is only possible when the law and order of that government and its policing have the support and trust of all communities. This to me seems self-evident. Whatever your views on the RUC the fact is that they do not, for whatever reason have the trust of the Catholic community. These reforms will go some way to establishing that trust and I support them. To the hard-line Unionists I would say this - would a police force that had a fair representation of both communities not diminish the risk of a return to terrorism or is it that you do not wish for peace at the price of co-operation?
Dylan Quinn, England

Once again, we see a British Government opt for a policy of appeasement. Perhaps we could change the name of British peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, so as not to offend Slobodan Milosevic?
Jerry A, UK

As far as I am concerned, the RUC should be completely disbanded, British occupation of Ireland should immediately be ended, and Ireland should be re-unified. But then again, I wasn't expecting Chris Patten to recommend that.
Owen Jones, England

The Ulster Unionists' bitterly hostile response to these proposals proves, if proof were needed, the fact that for the Unionists, the RUC is their militia.
In the absence of IRA violence we in mainland Britain are growing ever more tired of those who swear such a selective allegiance to Britain. Quite frankly, as the majority of the world comments above show, the Ulster Unionists are an embarrassment to the UK as they angrily condemn Chris Patten for daring to confront them with the twentieth century (let alone the twenty-first.)
Brian Kennedy, UK

The fact that Chris Patten's Commission's recommendations on the future of Northern Ireland's police force have come under fire from both Catholics and Protestants illustrate that Patten has got it roughly right and also underline the gulf still existing between the two sides.
The simple fact is that the history of English interference, to put it politely, unleashed a culture of hatred that I fear remains generations away from being healed.
Arthur Caversham, England

I'm afraid Patton's recommendations are based on they wrong premise; that the terrorism is over. In the last month the IRA has murdered, tried to import arms and terrorised four youths into leaving Northern Ireland. The Loyalists also continue to threaten to resume all out terror. Until such time as the terrorists abandon their weapons and give peace a chance then the only viable defence for the innocent people of that country remains the RUC in it's present form.
Keith Mills, Rep. of Ireland

I would be for the Patten recommendations on one condition: set up a Patten Commission II. This commission would make recommendations about the present structure of the IRA who are currently acting as a police force in many areas of Northern Ireland. This commission could then recommend the following: 1. The IRA should recruit more protestants. 2. They need to change the secret oaths they swear. 3. They should force the people in their areas to take down the "offensive" murals. 4. They should change their name to the "Northern Ireland Republican Army." 5. They should get rid of capital punishment without trial, torture, protection rackets, exiling and intimidation.
Let's cut out the hypocrisy of blasting the RUC without ever saying anything about the real gangsters of Northern Ireland -- the IRA, and the Protestant paramilitaries.
T. Campbell, USA

That the RUC be forced to change its name or lower the flag of the UK is as ridiculous as United States Marshals in the old Confederacy being forced to use another name and lower the Stars and Stripes! The Union Flag and the Queen belong to the whole UNITED Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland, and Catholics in Northern Ireland are no more exempt from that than Bangladeshi immigrants in Kent or Buddhist converts in Aberdeen.
What is needed to achieve lasting peace in Northern Ireland is to break the back of sectarian tribalism, not cater to it. In treating disloyalty to the Crown as a sentiment to be respected the Government would be sowing the seeds of national suicide (if it is not already trying to do that with the devolution slip-slope and euro-by-stealth).
Louis Epstein, USA

In all the screaming about the current recommendations put forward by the Patton commission, everyone seems to be forgetting that there has never been any ban on Catholics joining the RUC. Quite the contrary in fact. The RUC has actively attempted to encourage Catholics into the force. I would be inclined to suggest that the fact that any catholic who joins the force is immediately a target of their own community leaders, and find the lives of their families and themselves threatened by the self styled saviours of that community, has more of a bearing on this than any oath could have.
NB, Australia

Excellent report.
D Rogers, Scotland

The Patten report is going to do what 30 years of IRA terrorism have failed to do; eradicate the RUC and leave the North defenceless. Is it a coincidence that the IRA et al have not surrendered ONE SINGLE ROUND OF AMMO, nor one single stick of dynamite? Why aren't alarm bells ringing right now?
There is nothing wrong with the RUC that an infusion of Catholic recruits will not fix. As we've seen, since the '94 ceasefire, Catholic applications to the force have almost tripled- a sure indicator that acceptance of the RUC has increased vastly in recent years. Chris Patten's own survey of Catholic attitudes towards the RUC indicated that over two-thirds of Catholics surveyed thought that the RUC did a good or very good job of policing.
If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. Hands off the RUC! There's no good reason for meddling with it.
Mike Foster, Canada

Every civilised community needs a police service. It should have nothing to do with politics (party) Patten just about got it right
Pat Cunningham, N. Ireland

Removing the 'Royal' prefix is not just a matter of changing the name of the Police force. It is removing an honour that was bestowed on the force by Queen Victoria. I would liken it to taking back a medal that has been given to a person for some good or brave deed, not because they no longer deserved it, but because it may make someone else more amenable. This is totally unacceptable. I consider that if an honour is granted by a Monarch, it cannot simply be taken away by a civil servant under a government review.
I consider myself to be what some would class as a 'moderate' unionist, with a high level of tolerance but quite frankly I've had enough. The majority of the Patten Report is quite acceptable to me but if its implementation is dependant on my agreeing to the suggested name change then I have no option but to reject it in its entirety.
Jill Wallace, Northern Ireland

While I do not think that the Patten Commission has gone far enough to deal with anti-Catholic discrimination within the RUC, I feel that its recommendations are an important first step. Tony Blair should now commit his government to creating a police force that is fifty per cent Catholic and fifty per cent Protestant within five years.
Diarmid Logan, USA

Yes, Patton has it right. the RUC must be changed, both in name and nature. "Royal Ulster Constabulary" - certainly Irish people cannot abide the "Royal" prefix nor accept "Ulster" in the title. The RUC serves only six of the nine counties that comprise Ulster. Not in nature either - the RUC are intrinsically opposed to the wants, needs and rights of Irish Catholics. If Trimble, Taylor, Paisley et al succeed in ending the Review process Britain and Ireland must jointly ensure the changes envisioned in the Easter Agreement including Police reform are effected and must impose joint rule on Northern Ireland.
James, Canada

As a serving R.U.C. officer of 22 years and a Catholic I have no difficulty with the name or badge of the RUC I an very proud of the men and women in this Police force.
I have had a member of my extended family murdered whilst serving in the RUC, his brother is still serving in the RUC and his father retired as a n officer with 30 years service. The fact that they were all Catholics , and good church going people should tell that they had no difficulties serving with pride this fine force.
Patton is only changing the name to placate murdering republican scum, decent people have no problems with the name and badge, only the terrorists and criminals who would like to see an ineffective force who would be powerless to effectively protect the people living in the areas where they have a control.
The IRA have made a point of murdering any Catholic who stands up to them be it an RUC officer or member of the community to silence any voice against them. I have served in so called hardline republican areas and have found the people most kind but they dare not voice any support or be seen to help the police to protect the community. If Patton's recommendations are allowed to stand then I have no doubt that ALL the people of this island will regret this sop to the IRA.
Sean Stewart, Antrim

He seems to have made the best of a difficult job. Rightly or wrongly, one side of the community believes that the RUC is biased and does not reflect the wishes of the whole of the NI population. The other sees changes which relate more to equal opportunities and improving the public image as altering the position of NI in relation to the rest of the UK. In fact, it's a way of bringing the RUC into line with police forces on the mainland.
Jo M, England

The decision regarding the RUC should be left to the people of Northern Ireland. The will of the majority should be the driving force.
Tassos Zervakis , U.S.A

Terrorism yields results; that is what the Patten report shows. That the IRA and a small political party which has never succeeded in obtaining an expressive representation at the ballot box, and which relies on intimidation, threats and murder to achieve their aims, should be invited to shape the future of the police force in a part of our British Isles is simply unacceptable. Thugs are thugs and must only be treated as such.
D. H. Wilson, Brazil / UK

I am disgusted by the naive remarks of some contributors who claim to have an understanding of a very complex situation. Appeasement to terrorism will never work. As for abandoning the Northern Irish, catholic and protestant, will British people in the future turn their back on their kinsman from Edinburgh, Bradford, London, and Cardiff.
What has happened to the concept of democracy and self determination for Northern Ireland? Patten's report and its recommendations will be forced on the people of NI. I challenge Chris Patten to go and live in Northern Ireland and face the problems that will inevitably arise from the running down of the RUC.
It appears to me that Britons who are prepared to give their lives to promote a civil and just society are now been derided and denigrated. I would like to ask the 'police' who do they expect to man the barricades next time the cry 'goes up'.
Bob, Australia

The RUC and RUC Reserve should be supported in every way against this report. They have done more for Northern Ireland than can be put into words.
Thank you.
(From a friend in the The Royal Irish Regiment, Home Service. Were probably next for the axe.)
AW, Ulster

I think that any police force or public service should reflect the demographic make-up of the community. Chris Patten's recommendations are a rational solution to a complex problem.
Tony, USA

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