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Sir Ronnie Flanagan
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Sir Ronnie Flannagan

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Sir Ronnie Flannagan

He's "damaged goods" to one community, "impartial and professional" to the other.

Such is the gulf between unionist and nationalist in Northern Ireland in their view of the present RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, 50, has been a police officer for three decades - effectively the lifespan of the present conflict in Northern Ireland. After becoming chief constable in 1996, he quickly became the public face of the RUC.

Without question, Sir Ronnie is the RUC's most able media performer and came under utmost pressure during the period when the future shape of the force was being debated as part of the peace process.

One prominent nationalist politician believes Flanagan has an "over stated belief in his own ability". He criticised him for not appearing "to be sufficiently responsive to nationalist concerns and requirements."

A senior unionist disagrees. He sees Flanagan as someone "driven by the view that the greatest protection you can give to all is to police without fear or favour".

Speaking for himself, Flanagan has said his force stands ready for change. But he knows it is going to be a painful process.

In a recent message to his officers, the Chief Constable wrote: " It is appreciated that some of the suggested recommendations will have caused tremendous anguish. All members should be assured that the entire organisation, including all the staff associations and Police Authority Northern Ireland, will be working flat out to ensure that the interests of all members and indeed their families will be best represented."

Sir Ronnie Flanagan joined the RUC in 1970. Six years later had been promoted to the rank of inspector.

Twenty years into his policing career he was a chief superintendent and had moved to the Police Staff College at Bramshill as Director of the Intermediate Command Course and then the Senior Command Course, designed to prepare selected officers for chief officer rank. He achieved this rank himself in 1992 when promoted to assistant chief constable.

He was the RUC's senior commander in Belfast in 1993 at the time of the Shankill bomb and in a period when the city experienced some of the worst violence for many years.

He later became head of special branch and was promoted to deputy chief constable in February 1996. That same year Flanagan conducted the RUC's "Fundamental Review of Policing". In November he was Sir Hugh Annesley's successor as chief constable.

Sir Ronnie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in administrative and legal studies and is a graduate of the FBI Academy. He was awarded the OBE in 1996 and received a knighthood three years later.

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