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Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly
"It is no surprise that unionism is arguing to maintain the RUC"
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Ulster Unionist minister Sir Reg Empey
The Patten reforms were prepared to deal with a normalised society
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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
'Time not right for RUC reforms'
Officers on the beat
Issue of policing reform has led to controversy
A senior Ulster Unionist politican has said reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary could not take place against the backdrop of current instability in the peace process and ongoing violence.

Sir Reg Empey said people could not understand how the reduction of the number of police officers on the ground was being contemplated.

The reduction in numbers is among a number of controversial proposals contained in a report prepared by the Independent Commission on Policing, which was headed by EU commissioner Chris Patten.

The debate over the policing issue has intensified in advance of the Police (NI) Bill passing its final stages in Westminster in the next few weeks.

Sir Reg, who is enterprise and employment minister in Northern Ireland's power-sharing Executive, said Chris Patten's reform proposals had been drafted to deal with a "normalised situation".

Sir Reg Empey, Ulster Unionist
Sir Reg Empey: "Republicans seeking 'symbolic' victory over RUC
"Against the background where we have continuing terrorist threats, where we have got a shooting war between loyalists,where Drumcree is not resolved, I cannot understand and the people cannot understand how you contemplate reducing the number of police officers."

Sir Reg said republican politicians, who claimed the IRA had not been defeated militarily over 30 years, were seeking a "symbolic victory" over the RUC. which he said had also not been defeated.

"They have failed to get the disbandment of the RUC. They have failed to get a two-tier policing.

"They have failed to get rid of the Special Branch and a whole range of other issues."

Earlier, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly had said the policing question was a "touchstone" issue.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly: "No one is arguing for a nationalist police force"
"What we had before was a unionist police force so it is no surprise that unionism would argue to maintain that."

The North Belfast assembly member said the new police service needed to be capable of attracting young nationalists and republicans.

"I am not arguing for a nationalist police force and no-one will say what is in front of you is a nationalist or republican police force.

"No-one, not even David Trimble, is arguing that unionists will not join the new police service."

The policing issue is due to be debated at the Labour Party's annual conference on Wednesday when Sinn Fein and the Police Federation representatives will address two separate fringe meetings in Brighton.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson: RUC deserved better
12 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Reform will follow RUC honour
02 Mar 99 | Latest News
RUC critics 'must accept change'
08 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Sweeping reforms for RUC
14 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
'More Catholics satisfied with RUC'
16 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
'No rift' over policing issue
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