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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

The RUC: Head to head

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Ulster Unionist Assembly Party spokesman Michael McGimpsey set out their positions on the RUC for BBC News Online.

Click here to read Michael McGimpsey's views on the RUC.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams insists that nationalists are law abiding people who want a police service they can trust and join.

No single issue, apart from decommissioning, has generated as much controversy and debate as policing.

No other single issue has succeeded in raising such diverse and opposite opinions, and no other issue will be scrutinised as closely as this one.

For nationalists and republicans it is a touchstone issue.

The Patten commission had the difficult task of providing for a 'new beginning to policing'. A policing service which is 'capable of attracting and sustaining' support from all sections of our people.

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For decades there were those, mainly unionists, British Conservatives and the securocrats, who argued that there was nothing really wrong with the northern statelet.

It was all the fault of a rebellious minority, of 'terrorism', or a criminal conspiracy.

The Good Friday Agreement gives the lie to this view of our situation.

To the outsider it is a spotlight focusing on what was and still is, wrong within the six counties.

It covers the need for anti-discrimination legislation, for equality, for cultural rights, for democratic rights, for justice and demilitarisation, for constitutional and institutional change as well as the release of prisoners.

But to date the unionists have succeeded in blocking the establishment of the institutions.

We want to be policed

They have spurned power sharing, the creation of all-Ireland institutions, and are resisting change.

[ image: Gerry Adams:
Gerry Adams: "A touchstone issue"
This fact and the importance of policing will ensure that there will be keen attention paid by nationalists and republicans to the Patten report.

If Patten doesn't deliver what does that then say about the integrity and credibility of the agreement?

Nationalists in the north are not anti-police. On the contrary we want to be policed. The nationalist people are law abiding, decent people who want a police service they can trust, respect and join.

In recent months the undisguised sectarianism of the RUC has been apparent again on our streets with the vicious assaults on peaceful protesters on the Ormeau Road.

UN indictment

In Larne and elsewhere loyalist gangs face no opposition from the RUC in their nightly campaign of terror and intimidation against Catholic families.

The RUC itself has been recently indicted by the UN over its treatment of lawyers, and its bigotry exposed in its dealings with, and the threats made by some of its members towards Rosemary Nelson.

The issue of collusion, never far below the surface, re-emerged with renewed vigour around the Pat Finucane case, and the way in which the system constantly protects its own received some focus when no RUC members were charged despite a £30,000 compensation to a man brutally beaten by them.

All of this is just the tip of a very deep iceberg which goes back to the founding of the RUC in 1922.

It is clear that he RUC is incapable of meeting that objective.

Therefore as Sinn Fein has consistently argued, there must be a genuinely new beginning.

Whatever emerges from the Patten commission it would have been easier for all of us to deal with if the other parts of the agreement were in place, as they should have been, by now.

But the opposite is the case. That is why a review commenced this week.

It is a review of the non-implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein will be part of that review.

We will bring a positive and forward thinking approach to these proceedings.

But no-one should underestimate the difficulties facing republicans if the Patten commission does not produce a new policing service.

The RUC must go.

Michael McGimpsey, the Ulster Unionist Assembly Party spokesman on security sets out the UUP position on changes to policing in Northern Ireland.

No other police force in the western world has had to withstand the same level of threat as the RUC.

Over the last 30 years, 302 members have been murdered and more than 9,000 injured.

[ image: Michael McGimpsey:
Michael McGimpsey: "A shield to society"
Against this background and under the weight of a constant barrage of republican propaganda designed solely to discredit the force, the men and women of the RUC have steadfastly carried out their duty to serve impartially and protect the entire community in Northern Ireland.

In the present political context, where the paramilitaries and their political representatives flagrantly and maliciously fly in the face of the commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, any changes to the RUC must be consistent with the level of threat that the community here faces.

The force acts as a shield to society from terrorists, not just to the local community but also to the rest of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

It should not be scrapped to make way for a new service that, if we are to believe the leaked reports, would comprise of a motley crew of balaclavas in uniform and local vigilantes.

Reflecting society

The RUC is currently 92% Protestant. We all want to see a police force that more accurately reflects the make up of society.

The RUC was originally intended to draw one third of its members from the Roman Catholic community.

There is no quick fix to this problem. IRA terrorism, nationalist objections to the Northern Ireland state through a policy of abstentionism, Rule 21 and the intimidation of Catholic members from their own community have played a large part in determining the make up of the RUC.

Peace will help, but it will not bring overnight results. Merit must remain the basis of recruitment and not some mutated form of affirmative action.

The symbolic changes being suggested, particularly those dealing with insignia, oath and uniform, are a cause for concern.

It is our view that the insignia reflect both sides of the community here, with the harp having as equal a prominence as the crown.

Political football

The green uniform is representative of Ireland. With regards to the oath of allegiance and the name of the force, these issues were understood by all to have been resolved under the constitutional issue contained within the agreement.

We are not prepared to see the force being booted around like a political football in order to satisfy the republican movement's malignant political agenda.

We are prepared to consider commission proposals that enhance and improve the policing service for Northern Ireland.

If the Patten recommendations are to change the way we are policed in Northern Ireland, they must do so in a way devoid of political controversy and dogma and, above all, in a way that ensures that the integrity and reputation of the RUC are protected.

Those who gave their lives or who were injured protecting the community from terrorists over the last 30 years deserve nothing less.

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