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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Unionists condemn police report

The Patten report contains sweeping reforms for the RUC

Click here for a summary
Click here for the full report

The Ulster Unionist Party has responded angrily to plans to transform the Royal Ulster Constabulary, set out in a report on the future of policing in Northern Ireland.

The BBC's Denis Murray reports: "The report suggests radical changes"
The Patten Commission on the future of policing in Northern Ireland has recommended 175 changes to the RUC.

They include a new badge, flag, oath of allegiance, uniform and drive to recruit Catholics into the force.

The recommendations outraged unionists, but failed to meet nationalist and republican demands for disbandment.

[ image:  ]
Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, said the proposals to change the name of the RUC and take away its flag and badge were "a gratuitous insult" and predicted the public would reject the whole report.

He said: ''What is deeply offensive are the changes to the name, the flag and the badge. What is likely to happen as a result of that is that the community in Northern Ireland will be so outraged by those changes that it will reject the report as a whole.

''Mr Patten asked us what we expected. We expected the Agreement to be preserved and the terms of reference of Patten with regard to the whole force being representative of the whole community - good.

Pattern Report
''But look at the badge, the harp, the crown, the shamrock - they represent the whole community. We had every reason to believe that those symbols would be respected instead of tossed aside.''

Chris Patten defended the substance of the report and asked the politicians to think about the "pain" of the communities they represented before they issued sound bites.

He said: "What on earth did they think they were signing up to when they did that? What on earth did they think we were likely to recommend when we were asked to look at issues like ethos, composition and training and structure?"

The Search for Peace
More related to this story
Link to Sir Christopher Patten
Link to Sir Ronnie Flanagan

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness refused to give "a knee-jerk response" to the proposals and said his party would scrutinise the report to see if it adhered to its requirements under the Good Friday Agreement.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the report was "a good thorough piece of work".

The BBC's David Eades looks at the role that the RUC''s played in recent history
But Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said the report would not be implemented until there had been further consultation with the political parties, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland community.

She said she was extending this period of consultation until the end of November in response to complaints that the initial eight weeks allowed was "too short".

[ image:  ]
The report was welcomed by the Irish Government as "thorough and comprehensive" while SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon called for its speedy implementation.

The report puts a heavy emphasis on recommendations that Northern Ireland should be policed with a new human rights-based approach.

Another major change is the proposal to replace the Northern Ireland Police Authority with a new police board which will include members of all parties entitled to seats in the Assembly Executive including Sinn Fein.

If Mr Patten's recommendations are passed into law by the UK Government, the RUC would be renamed the Northern Ireland Police Service.

Non-political symbols

Serving and new police officers would also take a new oath "upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs".

[ image: Chris Patten: Consulted all sides in 15 months of work]
Chris Patten: Consulted all sides in 15 months of work
The Union flag would no longer be flown from police buildings and should be replaced by a new Northern Ireland Police Service Flag. Uniforms will stay green, but will change to "a more practical style."

In a peacetime situation the force would be reduced from 13,000 officers to 7,500.

An outside agency would recruit Catholics and Protestants to the police service which is currently 92% Protestant, on an equal basis.

Chris Patten: "Key part of the report is the depoliticisation of policing"
Community leaders were urged to play their part in helping the force to become more representative of the whole community and the report calls on the Gaelic Athletic Association to lift its ban on members of the security forces joining.

Entry requirements would be brought into line with UK in that "young people should not automatically be disqualified from entry into the police service for relatively minor criminal offences".

The Police Board would be responsible for appointing the chief constable and monitoring the force.

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