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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Police Federation denies redundancy talks

Redundancy discussions are denied

The Police Federation in Northern Ireland has denied that it is involved in discussions with the government over redundancies in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Secretary of State Mo Mowlam said negotiations had started with RUC officers following the publication of the Patten report.

She said talks between senior civil servants and police representatives to discuss lay-off terms started on Tuesday morning.

The Search for Peace
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But vice chairman of the Police Federation, Jimmy Spratt, said the organisation had spoken to the Northern Ireland Office about voluntary severance packages but said it was a "long way from discussing actual redundancies."

He said the federation still held the view that in the light of the current security situation, there could be "no redundancies within the force for the foreseeable future".

One of the recommendations of the Independent Commission on policing in Northern Ireland, chaired by Chris Patten, was that the RUC should almost halve in size from 13,000 to 7,500 members.

Dr Mowlam said RUC rank and file bodies had wanted further information.

"They said it was difficult for them to reach a view ultimately without knowing what packages were on offer."

Many officers are angry at the 175-recommendation Patten plan which also includes the phasing out the 3,000-strong reserve force.

[ image: Mo Mowlam: Policing and political progress
Mo Mowlam: Policing and political progress "separate issues"
Other recommendations include changing the Royal Ulster Constabulary name to the Northern Ireland Police Service, and introducing a new service oath.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has rejected the report as "deeply flawed and objectionable" and has set up a working party to come up with alternatives.

But speaking at the British-Irish Parliamentary body in Cambridge Dr Mowlam insisted policing was a totally separate issue from the Mitchell review which is attempting to break the impasse over the formation of a power-sharing executive at Stormont.

Mo Mowlam: Police reform is not "bargaining chip" in the political review
She said there had been calls for some parties to pull out of the review but "thankfully they have not been heeded".

"Having come so far together it would be a mistake to abandon the process now over an issue which is just one part of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Yes it is a crucial part, as the agreement says. It's essential in any society.

"But important though it is, the policing reform in itself will neither solve all the problems, nor, as some will say, end society as we know it for good."

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