Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
UK: Northern Ireland
Unionists voice fears on police reform
RUC numbers expected to fall if IRA ceasefire holds
Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland have been voicing further disquiet about the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary following renewed media speculation on the likely conclusions of a review commission.
Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and his team have drawn up extensive proposals for reform of the RUC and these are due to be published early in September.
Their document is known to contain close to 200 recommendations.
The Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, has already said publicly that a "peace time" police service would be between 6,000 and 7,000.
The new body would also be more representative of of the Northern Ireland community as a whole.
The present Authority is considered by nationalists to be unrepresentative of their side of the community.
But terms such as "disbandment" will not feature in the report. One source said the language of the report would be managerial and not political.
The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, said Chris Patten must confirm or deny what he call the "leaked report".
"If the leaks on policing are accurate then the Patten Commission has failed and the report should be consigned to the bin," he said.
"The symbolic changes, particularly to the honoured name of the existing service, are a savage repudiation of the present force, the people in it and those who have served and sacrificed for the community."
Mr Trimble's deputy, John Taylor, described the reports as shocking and predicted a huge backlash if the RUC's name was altered.
He said it was a proud force in which Protestants and Catholics had served the community with distinction over the years, many to their cost.
The Democratic Unionist Party's Gregory Campbell said if the reports were true, the changes to be proposed by Patten would be anathema to every unionist in Northern Ireland and even to many moderate nationalists.
The chief constable said on Wednesday night that a number of people, including disabled officers and the widows of those killed while serving in the force felt strongly about its name.
But he insisted his force "stood ready for change" and said he had every confidence in the Patten Commission.
Chris Patten will recommend that the report is not "cherrypicked" . But when it goes out to consultation before final decisions are taken, its recommendations are sure to divide Northern Ireland's politicians.