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Thursday, 9 September, 1999, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Blair: RUC report 'the way forward'
The RUC cause strong passions in Northern Ireland

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Click here for the full report

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has described the Patten report on the future of the RUC as the "way forward" for policing in Northern Ireland.

He acknowledged the difficulties both unionist and nationalist communities would have accepting some of the proposals.

But he urged everyone to take time to digest the detail of the report, produced by a commission head by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten.

"I say to all the people of Northern Ireland: read this report, study it, reflect on it," Mr Blair said.

"Don't give the quick comment for the easy headline. This is a good and thorough piece of work.

Tony Blair: "Study the detail before reacting"
"Sensibly implemented, it can help us build the Northern Ireland we all want to see, free from the violence and hatred of the past, a Northern Ireland the children there are proud to inherit.

"This report addresses the future. It charts a way forward in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

"It aims to allow the police to do an effective job in all the communities in Northern Ireland.

"More than that it sets the highest international standards for policing and many of Chris Patten's recommendations will be of interest for policing elsewhere in the UK and indeed throughout the world."

But while he welcomed the report without reservation, the prime minister stressed the challenges it would present to those who had lost relatives on active service with the force.

"Some of the recommendations will of course be difficult for the men and women who have devoted their lives to the RUC.

"We salute the sacrifices of those who have died or been disabled while serving as police officers.

"We salute the courage of their families. We all know that change, properly done, can bring benefits to the police and public alike."

Consultation period extended

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam thanked the members of the Patten Commission for their hard work over a 15 month period.

She said that the government accepted in principle the report's findings but there would have to be further consultation on its implementation with the political parties, the Irish Government and the wider community.

Dr Mowlam also announced she was increasing the period of consultation until the end of November in response to complaints that the eight weeks initially allowed was too short.

"I don't want the debate to be about the length of timescale of consultation. I want it to be about the content of the Patten Commission," she said.

David Andrews: "Warm welcome"
The Irish Government gave a formal "warm welcome" to the 175 recommendations in the report and called for their "early and effective implementation".

Foreign Minister David Andrews said: "It's a very, very important element in the totality of the Good Friday agreement, and comprehensively addresses all the issues.

"I would have thought that the recommendations in the context of the human rights element - new oaths, a code of ethics, policing in the community, a police ombudsman, the abandonment of plastic bullets - right across the broad canvass of the report itself strikes a balance."

But he too admitted it would not be easy to put the proposals into practice.

"The difficulty is that you can't give total comfort to everybody and if you are going to nit-pick the recommendations, then you are going to find immediate dissatisfaction.

"I can only recommend to look at this in a balanced way - I can't direct anybody, nor would I deem it my function to do so."

Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

Key stories

Background

OTHER SPECIAL REPORTS
See also:

09 Sep 99 | RUC Reform
08 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
09 Sep 99 | N Ireland
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