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1969: Ulster's B Specials to be disbanded
The British Government has accepted the recommendations of the Hunt committee on policing in Northern Ireland which include the abolition of the Ulster Special Constabulary, know as the 'B Specials'.

The Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, ordered a commission, headed by Lord Hunt, in response to this summer's violence in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

The subsequent report recommends a complete reorganisation and disarming of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, including the disbanding of the B Specials auxiliary force seen by many as a Protestant army.

Among several proposals, the Hunt report suggests a reformed RUC should comprise:

  • the existing reserve force to be renamed the Special Patrol Group to carry out routine police duties, and its members limited to a three-year term of service
  • a new volunteer reserve police force to aid police at local level, recruited in Belfast, Londonderry and the Six Counties
  • a cadet corp.

The Northern Ireland Prime Minister, James Chichester-Clark, said the Stormont government had been consulted before the Northern Ireland Cabinet decided to accept the recommendations.

He made assurances that the B Specials would remain intact until a fully effective security force had taken its place.

The British Army, which Major Chichester-Clark invited in to quell the August riots, will remain in place.


Unionist backbench MPs voted by 28 votes to seven to support the Hunt report but opposition MPs in Stormont have attacked it.

The Rev Ian Paisley described it as "an absolute sell-out to the republicans and the so-called civil rights movement which is only a smokescreen for the republican movement". He also called on the prime minister to resign.

Formed in April 1922 when the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was disbanded, the RUC initially made provision for one third of the places in the RUC to be reserved for Catholics, with preference given to former RIC men.

But this proportion was never achieved and only 11% of the RUC are Catholic.

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Police battle with rioters in Londonderry - August 14 1969
The rioting in Bogside has raised serious questions about Northern Ireland policing

In Context
The B Specials were disbanded the following year. In their place, the RUC Reserve was formed as an auxiliary police force.

All military-style duties were handed over to the Ulster Defence Regiment, which was under military command. It was later disbanded as well.

But the disarming of the RUC was short lived. By late 1971, side arms were again issued.

It has been under the control of the Northern Ireland Office of the British government since direct rule was established in 1972.

Matters of security, law, and order remained under British government control even after devolution of power to the Northern Ireland executive in December 1999.

Following recommendations of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, an Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland was set up.

And after the Patten report of 1999, the RUC changed its name to the Police Force of Northern Ireland on 4 November 2001.

The uniform and badge were changed in March 2002 and the first recruits to the new service, appointed under the new arrangements for 50:50 recruitment of Catholics and non-Catholics, graduated on 5 April 2002.

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