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banner Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 12:47 GMT
Concerns over falling RUC numbers
Flanagan: Adverts placed with recruitment agencies
Flanagan: Adverts placed with recruitment agencies
The RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said he is concerned about the numbers leaving the force.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Today programme, he said he does not have as many officers as he would like on the streets.

Many in the force are taking up early severance packages as numbers are being cut in line with the recommendations of the Patten report on policing reform in Northern Ireland.

In the meantime I have to say that I'm worried about the number of officers that I have

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

The Police Federation, which represents the rank and file RUC officers, has sited low morale because of the police reforms as one of the reasons why officers are quitting.

Sir Ronnie said recruitment adverts would be placed with an independent agency.

"I'm going to have that difficulty for the next couple of years, which is why we are moving ahead to place a contract with an independent civilian recruitment agency," the chief constable said.

"We hope to advertise in the very near future for new recruits and I need those new recruits on the street absolutely as quickly as possible.

"But in the meantime I have to say that I'm worried about the number of officers that I have," he said.

He confirmed that, when necessary, he would not hesitate to ask for support for the police from the military.

'Closing in on criminals'

The chief constable said the RUC was closing in on the criminals responsible for a spate of pipe bomb attacks in Northern Ireland,

About 50 pipe bomb attacks have been recorded in the province since the start of the year, most of them targeting Catholics.

UDA mural
UDA involved in attacks says Flanagan
Sir Ronnie said investigations into the attacks were proving complex, but progress was being made.

"We have upped the levels of our patrolling, we have made appeals for public support, we have made many seizures of these devices, and we are increasing our covert activity as well.

"So I would certainly feel that the net is closing around these people," he said.

Sir Ronnie said it appeared the majority of the pipe bomb incidents involved people who had been members of the largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association.

But that did not necessarily mean the organisation itself was consciously breaching its ceasefire.

"It is difficult to make straightforward assumptions. Just because members of that organisation are involved, it doesn't mean that at the centre there is direction and control of this despicable activity," said Sir Ronnie.

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