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EDITIONS
Friday, 2 November, 2001, 15:19 GMT
Flanagan: Police will embrace change
Flanagan: Sources of hurt may not bring benefits
Sir Ronnie: Officers will embrace changes
The head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has urged all sides in Northern Ireland to keep politics out of the new era of policing in the province.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan made the comment two days before the RUC changes its name to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The move will happen at midnight on Sunday as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Ronnie also said he expected to be replaced as chief constable "in the not too distant future".

Political debate

He said there was now a real chance for the service to have the full endorsement of Protestants and Catholics, including republicans.

However, he ruled out suggestions that former paramilitaries could eventually end up in police uniforms.

He said: "People are sick, sore and tired of the protracted nature of the political debate.


I would dearly love to see the day when we are able to revert to an unarmed service

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

"It's now time to get on with the change."

Sinn Fein is the only party in the province which refuses to endorse the new service, but Sir Ronnie said he believed the party would eventually back the new arrangements.

"For the first time, nationalists in the form of the SDLP are in formalised policing arrangements," he added.

"For the first time, the Catholic Church are encouraging and endorsing young Catholic men and women to come forward to be police officers.

"So let us all, police and public, make sure this is a true new dawn of a safer, more prosperous, brighter future.

"Of course, if there are elements of the community withholding their support, then policing cannot be as effective as it otherwise would.

"However, I believe their support will come".

Some unionists have claimed that Sunday marks the disbandment of the RUC.

Normality

But Sir Ronnie dismissed those claims as "absolute nonsense".

The chief constable also said he believed his police officers were ready to embrace the changes.

"Sunday represents a real landmark for getting on with change. It is time to embrace it. It is time to bring some certainty to the future.

"The men and women who make up the RUC, who will in effect form on Sunday the Police Service of Northern Ireland, deserve normality more than any other body of men and women in this society.


It is important that someone comes in, in the fairly near future, to continue that process for the next five to 10 years

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

"Nobody has suffered more as a result of an absence of that normality."

He said would also like to see the police develop into an unarmed service.

"We know dissident republicans are still targeting police officers with a view to potential attack. So the sad reality is they will have to be armed.

"But I would dearly love to see the day when we are able to revert to an unarmed service."

Continue the process

Sir Ronnie said he would probably not be heading the new police service "for very long".

"So it is right that as soon as possible, me having taken the organisation this far, me having moved the organisation so that it has become the Police Service of Northern Ireland, I think it is important that someone comes in, in the fairly near future, to continue that process for the next five to 10 years."

Sir Ronnie said officers
Sir Ronnie said officers "deserved normality"

He added: "My deputy chief constable is involved in a number of competitions for chief constables' posts elsewhere. I have two very senior assistant chief constables about to retire over the next four to five months."

These factors would have to be taken into consideration by the Police Board "in terms of determining when I should be replaced", he said.

More than 300 recruits for the new service have already been selected.

Forty seven of them, drawn equally from the Catholic and Protestant community, will begin their trainining at the weekend.

The recruits will undergo a 20-week classroom-based programme of training, 10 weeks' weapons and riot training and 10 weeks' work experience before graduating next spring.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Gould
"The transformation of the RUC is still a source of political controversy"
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, RUC Chief Constable
"There can't be a place as police officers for those with terrorist backgrounds"
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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