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EDITIONS
Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 11:23 GMT
Head to head: Policing
This weekend, the first recruits to Northern Ireland's renamed police service will begin their training.

They will not graduate into the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but into the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The name change is one element of the reforms to policing which have caused controversy and added to the political stalemate.

Here, Danny Kennedy, an Ulster Unionist assembly member for Newry and Armagh, and West Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey air their differing views on the policing issue.


Danny Kennedy, Ulster Unionist MLA

We are now clearly in a new era for policing in Northern Ireland.

The New Police Service of Northern Ireland comes into operation this weekend and that is an example of changes to the existing force. I think a lot of people will be very sad and very sorry that the proud symbols of the RUC are changing.

Officers on the ground will look forward to the challenges they are now facing. But many serving officers and retired officers will be very sad at the shabby treatment they have received.

It will be difficult for those officers who were right in the centre of the conflict - those who risked life and limb and who have received scant recognition.


People want to see a society in which paramilitaries are not given a licence to control areas

Patten made huge mistakes in recommending changes to the names and symbols of the RUC. Many unionists will not accept that the current symbols of the RUC would not be able to command cross-community support.

Tackling crime

Everybody wants to see proper law and order and no community can be left without an effective police service which is tackling crime and hooliganism.

People want to see a society in which paramilitaries are not given a licence to control areas. That is a completely wrong concept and there should be proper resources made available for effective policing.

If the government wants to underpin the Patten changes, then it has a duty to provide resources for the involvement of policing in all areas and more deployment of officers on the ground.


The goal of 50-50 recruitment of Catholic and Protestant officers is unrealistic

The government has to prove to the people of Northern Ireland that the policing structures will be more effective and will command community support.

To those new recruits who are beginning their police training this weekend, I would say to them that they would be wise to look at the example set by the RUC and by officers who have given, and continue to give, service to the general public.

However, the goal of 50-50 recruitment of Catholic and Protestant officers is unrealistic. The police force ought to reflect the community and balances within the community.

If policing goes badly, if it is under-resourced, if the community feels it is not getting an adequate service and is subject to political interference, it will cause further problems for the political institutions.


Alex Maskey, Sinn Fein MLA

We are not in a new era for policing, but rather a propaganda offensive instead of the new beginning promised under the Good Friday Agreement.

Under the current arrangements the authority over the police service rests with the chief constable and the secretary of state instead of the police board.

The level of representation of Catholics will take a number of years, indeed it could take up to 20 years, and that is a definite fault-line.

There is no way of removing members of the current force who have been indicted on human rights abuses.

The Patten recommendations were three-fold: 50-50 recruitment to the main body of the police, disbanding the full-time reserve and using the part-time reserve and actively recruiting into it those people who had been isolated from the police in the past.

Existing culture

There was also the recommendation of lateral entry. Those brought in at the lower levels cannot challenge the existing culture which permeates a force.

I understand that there are unionists who feel aggrieved by the changes to policing. They have seen the RUC as their police force and there are key historical reasons for that.

But many in the unionist community have been in denial that the RUC have been a problem. It is a fact that cannot be brushed under the carpet.


I understand that there are unionists who feel aggrieved by the changes to policing

The Patten report made clear that the new beginning to policing heralded by the Good Friday Agreement must mean a neutralisation of all symbols and emblems.

There is a substantial size of the community which does not identify with certain symbols and emblems and the crown is one of them.

I believe most nationalists will continue to withhold their support for the police service.

It will take a long number of years for the level of Catholic representation to increase and if nationalists stick together they will get the changes to the legislation.

Everyone is agreed that we need a new beginning. But we will look to see the changes to legislation the British Government must make.

Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

Key stories

Background

OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

31 Oct 01 | RUC Reform
16 Oct 01 | N Ireland
21 Sep 01 | N Ireland
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