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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Hundreds show support for police

Hundreds demonstrate their support for the police

Hundreds of people have attended a rally in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Northern Ireland.

The rally at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, marks the start of a UK wide lobbying campaign against the conclusions of the Patten report on policing.

The controversial report, published by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, made 175 recommendations for radical changes to policing in the province.

BBC NI's Mark McCleary reports from the Support the RUC rally in Belfast
These include proposals to change the name of the force to the Northern Ireland Police Service, and reduce the current number of officers.

A platform party at the rally included former Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon; former senior officer, Sir John Gorman and Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore. They were given a standing ovation.

Fundamental changes to police

Sir John Hermon spoke about the consequences of implementing the Patten report's recommendations, and said now was not the time for fundamental changes to the RUC.

[ image: Sir John Hermon:
Sir John Hermon: "Not the time for changes to RUC"
He said the report must not be pushed through Westminister without real political progress being achieved.

Sir John described the appointment of a foreign oversight commissioner as "totally unrealistic".

He also said allowing Sinn Fein to dictate the nature and pace of change was "folly".

Sir John rubbished Patten's suggestion that politics were to be taken out of policing, pointing out that there would be ten politicians on the new police board.

When Sir John said the changing of the name of the RUC was unnecessary, sections of the audience shouted "no change".

Criticism of report

The report has attracted widespread criticism across the province.

[ image: Chris Patten: Report has attracted much controversy]
Chris Patten: Report has attracted much controversy
Ulster unionists described the report as "deeply flawed" and an attempt to undermine the "Britishness" of the police service in the province.

Sinn Fein said it must consult the nationalist people before responding to the report.

But Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labour Party said his party wanted to see the recommendations implemented.

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Internet Links

Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein

Ulster Unionist Party

Royal Ulster Constabulary

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