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RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan
"This is an acknowledgement of all those without whom policing would not have been possible"
 real 28k

Tom Coulter reports for BBC News
"Unionists are certainly pleased"
 real 28k

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
"I'm absolutely delighted"
 real 28k

The BBC's Denis Murray
"Policing has always been contraversial in Northern Ireland"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 12:28 GMT
RUC awarded George Cross

The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to honour the courage and dedication of police officers and their families in Northern Ireland.

The RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said he was humbled, and spoke of "a momentous day" in the history of the force.

But Sinn Fein said the award was "grossly offensive" to those who had "suffered" under the RUC.

Only once before has the George Cross gone to anyone other than an individual. That was during the Second World War, when the Mediterranean island of Malta was honoured.

The award was made on the advice of UK Government ministers.

Sir Ronnie said: "It is the highest honour that can be conferred upon civilians, it takes precedence over all medals with only the exception of the Victoria Cross.

"It is, therefore, a humbling experience for me to acknowlege that, as in the case of the people of Malta, the collective courage and sacrifice of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been recognised in this meaningful and public way by Her Majesty."

The announcement was made by Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

Peter Mandelson: 'Absolutely delighted'

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson, who visited RUC headquarters in Belfast to congratulate the Chief Constable and his force, said he was "absolutely delighted" by the Queen's decision.

He added: "It is right, it is deserved and it should be an enormous source of pride for every present and past member of the RUC who have shown such enormous sacrifice over the past 30 years."

However, Sinn Fein has condemned the decision as being "grossly offensive to the many people who have suffered at the hands of this discredited force".

Policing spokeswoman Bairbre de Brun said: "This latest attempt to give credibility... flies in the face of the promise in the Good Friday Agreement for 'a new beginning to policing'."

The George Cross was instituted in 1940 by the Queen's father, George VI, for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger".

It was in 1942 that the medal was conferred on Malta, in recognition of the conspicuous gallantry and fortitude displayed by islanders during devastating World War II enemy bombardments.

The announcement from Buckingham Palace said: "The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to honour the courage and dedication of the officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their families who have shared their hardships."

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See also:
23 Nov 99 |  UK
George Cross - one of the highest honours
23 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Flanagan dismisses award concern
23 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Parties react to RUC honour
09 Sep 99 |  Patten Report
Full coverage: The Patten Report
29 Oct 99 |  Northern Ireland
Remember RUC fallen says priest
11 Oct 99 |  Northern Ireland
One million signatures sought for RUC

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