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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Poppy protest against Patten plan

Murdered RUC officers are rememberd at Stormont

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Relatives of RUC officers killed during the Troubles joined anti-Agreement unionists to protest against Chris Patten's proposed changes to the force.

Pattern Report
White crosses bearing poppies were laid in the lawns of Stormont as a memorial to the 302 RUC officers killed in the conflict.

Protesters, including members of the Protestant Orange Order, congregated in front of Parliament Buildings at a statue to Lord Carson - one of the founders of Northern Ireland, before holding a brief memorial service to murdered officers.

The protest at Stormont on Friday kicked off a Northern Ireland-wide campaign to scrap the proposals contained in the Patten Commission's report on the future of policing in the province.

Thelma Johnston, whose son David was murdered by the IRA in Lurgan two years ago, condemned the recommendation to change the RUC badge.

[ image: Thelma Johnston: Does not want to lose RUC emblem]
Thelma Johnston: Does not want to lose RUC emblem
"The name shouldn't be changed. I honestly think it shouldn't as it is made up of three symbols, a crown, a shamrock and a harp," she said.

Those against changing the RUC badge say the three emblems reflect all of Northern Ireland's society.

The protest campaign is planning further action in response to the Patten recommendations.

The BBC's Denis Murray reports: "The report suggests radical changes"
The commission's report recommended 175 changes to the RUC.

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

Also proposed is a structure of district boards which would oversee local relations with the new force and would include members of Sinn Fein.

[ image:  ]
The recommendations came under attack on Friday from the anti-Agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson who called for a boycott of the proposals unless substantial changes were made by the government.

Mr Donaldson said if the outcome of the consultation process is unacceptable to unionists they will have to consider whether to give credence to the proposed policing boards and district partnerships.

DUP leader Ian Paisley described the reforms proposed by the Patten Commission as a "studied insult" to the memory of RUC officers killed and injured by terrorists.

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 has refused to give "a knee-jerk response" to the Patten proposals.

He said his party would scrutinise the report to see if it adhered to its requirements under the Good Friday Agreement.

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam extended the period of consultation to the end of November. It had been set at six weeks but Dr Mowlam said this period was "too short".

The BBC's David Eades looks at the role that the RUC''s played in recent history
The report was welcomed by the Irish Government as "thorough and comprehensive" while SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon called for its speedy implementation.

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine said that the perception among loyalists was that the report represented a further concession to the Provisional IRA.

"The name change, the new badge, the non-flying of the Union flag won't make the remotest difference to the efficiency of the police or to the modernity of the police," he said.

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