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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Unionists oppose 'radical' RUC plan

The report into the RUC will be pubished on Thursday

The Ulster Unionists have warned they will oppose any radical reforms contained in the report by Chris Patten into the future of the RUC.

The Search for Peace
The BBC has learnt that the report by the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland is to recommend a name change and a reduction in size for the Northern Ireland police force.

But Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the proposals, which are published on Thursday, were "very radical".

He told the BBC: "We will look at the report, we will study it, but if it is as radical as being suggested, we will be opposing many aspects of this report because we do not believe that it will in fact create a police service which is acceptable to the whole community because it will, in many senses, be a calculated insult to the people who served [in the RUC].

[ image: Jeffrey Donaldson: Renaming force an
Jeffrey Donaldson: Renaming force an "insult"
"Indeed, in removing any aspect or vestige of symbolism relating to the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom is going to be offensive to unionists."

Mr Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, said the recommendation that the force should be renamed as the Northern Ireland Police Service was an insult to the 302 police officers who had died in the Troubles in the past 30 years.

He added: "I am far from convinced that simply by changing the name of the police force in Northern Ireland, that that is going to be acceptable to nationalists."

Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson: Reform offensive to many whose loyalties lie with the UK
William Ross, Ulster Unionist MP for East Londonderry, said the report was "carried through at the request of the terrorists" and was not done to improve the efficiency of the RUC.

Mr Ross said the force did not exclude Catholics.

He said: "The truth of the matter is that Roman Catholics joined the force and were a major target for terrorists and were murdered in quite large numbers by terrorists whenever they could identify them, because they hated them and claimed they were traitors to the nationalist cause."

'New beginning'

Sinn Fein chief whip Alec Maskey said his party would look at the proposals contained in the report, A New Beginning For Policing, within the terms of reference of the Good Friday Agreement.

[ image: The report was set up under the Good Friday Agreement]
The report was set up under the Good Friday Agreement
He said the agreement had established that policing in Northern Ireland needed a new beginning.

Mr Maskey said: "Every single barometer of opinion within the broader nationalist community and beyond have recognised and made demands about policing for a long, long time."

He continued: "If there is to be a report from Chris Patten which measures up to his terms of reference in the Good Friday Agreement, then we all benefit.

Sinn Fein whip Alex maskey gives the republican response
"Policing is not just a question which serves one sector of the community more than another and this has been the problem for so many years and that has been the problem that has been at the core of problems in our society.

"Policing under the RUC has been one force serving one section of the community in a very bad way."

DUP leader Ian Paisley branded the proposals as "evil".

He said: "My party was correct in its predictions that the Agreement would lead to the destruction of the RUC. That being so we are not going to rest on our laurels. We intend to defend the police and eradicate the Patten proposals.

'50/50 recruitment proposal'

The report is understood to contain a proposal that future recruitment of Catholics and Protestants into the police should be on an equal basis.

[ image: There is clear opposition to the RUC in nationalist west Belfast]
There is clear opposition to the RUC in nationalist west Belfast
Head of the Fair Employment Commission, Bob Cooper, said that the amendments which would have to be made to Northern Ireland's fair employment laws to implement this proposal would have to be carefully handled.

He said: "There is an argument for saying that there is a compelling state interest, national interest and community interest in having a police service which is representative of the whole community and that in those circumstances someone who is a Catholic brings more to the police service in terms of a contribution than someone who is not.

BBC NI Chief Security Correspondent Brian Rowan: report will be difficult for both RUC and republicans
"So I think there an argument for an amendment. Whether you go as radical as 50/50 is another issue."

Irish Junior Foreign Minister Liz O'Donnell said that any fair minded person would agree there was a need for reform of the RUC.

Speaking in Belfast she said: "That is in no way to insult the memory of the RUC officers who have died in the service of the community in Northern Ireland over 30 years of taking on terrorism.

"What it is about is providing a new policing service in a new peaceful environment which will command the respect of all of the community."

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