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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 15:51 GMT
Flanagan dismisses award concern
Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Peter Mandelson at RUC headquarters

The Royal Ulster Constabulary chief constable has insisted that the George Cross is not a valedictory honour heralding the end of the RUC as currently constituted.

The award comes just two months after the Patten report recommended sweeping changes to the RUC, including dropping the word "royal" from its title.

Downing Street also said that the decision to award the RUC the George Cross had nothing to do with the Mitchell review or with the Patten report into the future of policing in Northern Ireland.

Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan told BBC Radio: "The magnitude of this award is such, having been granted only once previously for collective courage, to the island of Malta, granted by the Sovereign, the magnitude is such that it would be mean-spirited of anyone to consider it in that light at all."


The timing should not be seen as having any connection with other on-going matters
Sir Ronnie Flanagan RUC Chief Constable
On the policing review, Sir Ronnie acknowledged that losing the force's title and crest would hurt his officers.

"I have surveyed all our officers and overwhelmingly they see no need for a change in the title and crest. I will be reflecting that in our response to government," he said.

Earlier he told reporters he felt the timing of the award was unconnected with the Patten report.

"It is the most momentous recognition of past achievement and the most immense incentive to us all now and in future to continue to provide the highest quality police service to all our people in Northern Ireland.

"So I think the timing should not be seen as having any connection to other on-going matters."

A Downing Street spokesman said the decision to make the award had been taken in the last few weeks.

He said the prime minister was aware of the recommendation, but would not confirm whether the decision to make the award had been instigated by Tony Blair.

The leader of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, Gary McMichael, said the timing of the gesture would raise concerns that there was a political motive.

He said if the government thought the award would soften the blow of a decision to fully implement the Patten proposals, then it underestimated unionist feelings on the issue.

Mr McMichael said the award was "fitting" but hoped it would not be seen as the equivalent of a retirement watch.

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See also:
23 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
RUC awarded George Cross
23 Nov 99 |  Northern Ireland
Parties react to RUC honour
09 Sep 99 |  Patten Report
Full coverage: The Patten Report

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