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RUC TO LOSE OATH, 0UEEN AND CROWN; RADICAL: Patten's plans for shake-up of Ulster police force.

TO UNIONISTS, the flag that flutters outside every RUC police station is a symbol of the fight against terrorism.

To Republicans, it is a testament to years of oppression from a police force they believe can never honestly represent them.

Yesterday, even though the shaky peace process stayed on track, the bitter divide over the RUC was ever widening.

And the radical transformation that will follow Chris Patten's long-awaited report could well be the final nail in the coffin of that same shaky peace process.

Unionists are furious that the new-look RUC will have no badge, no oath, and no allegiance to the Queen. No Union flag will fly outside police stations across the province.

But it is the removal of the word "Ulster" from the force's name that has shaken hardline Unionists to their very foundations.

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor MP predicted a huge backlash if plans to rename the force The Police Service of Northern Ireland go ahead.

He said: "These proposals are dynamite and could well be the final blow to the Belfast agreement.

"The proposal to change the name of the service is an insult to present members and the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.

"The name will become the centre-piece of a massive campaign to prevent the Government from accepting the Patten report."

Patten's controversial blueprint is not due to be published until September 9 - just as former US Senator George Mitchell restarts the crucial Stormont talks which broke down in disarray earlier this year.

But already sparks are flying over leaked reports that the recommendations will be even more far-reaching than any Ulsterman imagined.

Patten will explicitly say that the RUC is not being disbanded. But if his proposals are implemented, the RUC as we know it will be unrecognisable.

He wants the force cut from 13,000 to 7500 within 10 years, with a push to try to attract Catholic recruits.

Patten will propose that the RUC badge, which bears a crown and a harp, should be changed. He wants no British or Irish emblems.

He will also recommend that the RUC oath is dropped, that no more Union flags fly outside police stations and that pictures of the Queen are removed from reception areas.

New recruits to the force would no longer swear allegiance to the Queen.

A new police board would be able to buy in extra services from outside, and training and recruitment would be overhauled to attract Catholics, while older officers would be offered enhanced redundancy deals.

Ulster is 42 per cent Catholic, but at the moment only eight per cent of the RUC are Catholic.

One proposal to even things out is to introduce a minimum qualifying entrance test. Then, instead of selecting those who achieve the highest marks, equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants will be selected as long as they achieve the standard.

The new police board will be an assembly of 10 members, with Sinn Fein entitled to two places.

It is understood that Patten is insisting that his recommendations be accepted as a full package. He does not want controversial parts being dropped because they may not suit one side of the argument.

Ulster Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson said the proposals reportedly contained in Patten's review effectively meant the end of the force.

He said: "These proposals are so radical, it's little different from complete disbandment of the RUC.

"I believe that there has been political pressure put on the Patten commission. It is attempting to buy off Republicans and draw them into decommissioning. The proposals are entirely unacceptable."

Donaldson said if the proposals were published as expected just after Senator Mitchell's review starts at the beginning of September, "that's going to do a lot of damage to the review process".

Democratic Unionist Party justice spokesman Ian Paisley jnr added: "The RUC as we know it is gone.

"This is the mother of all concessions to the Republican movement. Its reverberations go right to the heart of sensible management and organisation of the state.

"They will shatter it."

The RUC was formed when Ireland was partitioned in 1922.

Throughout the Troubles of the last 30 years, it has been the focus of hate for Republicans who see it as upholding the Union and consistently aiding Loyalists during flashpoint Orange marches like the recent ones in the Lower Ormeau Road.

But the work of an RUC officer is like that of no other policeman. Their job is to uphold the law but they are under enormous pressure.

In 30 bloody years, 302 RUC officers have been murdered and 9105 seriously injured, mostly by the IRA.

Just over two years ago, weeks before another ceasefire was declared, two beat cops were shot in the back of the head as they patrolled the streets of Lurgan.

Stress levels are higher than in any other force. Fifty officers have been driven to suicide, many taking their own lives with police-issue weapons. The Province is littered with RUC widows.

Republicans continually complain of police harassment and assault, but very few RUC officers are disciplined and only two or three have ever been prosecuted.

Between 1997 and 1999, there were 9766 complaints made against RUC officers. Of those, 5293 were investigated and just 61 complaints were upheld.

The largest number of complaints were of assault by RUC officers. Of 1997 complaints, just six were substantiated. And of 544 complaints of harassment, not one was upheld.

Many cases reported are either informally resolved or cannot be investigated because the complainers don't co-operate.

Some Unionists view brutality and harassment claims against the RUC as part of the Republican propaganda machine.

But the RUC have paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in out-of-court settlements to people following damages claims.

MAIN POINTS

RUC to become Police service of Northern Ireland.

Oath, uniform and badge to

change.

Union flag no longer to fly at stations.

Force cut fromm 13000 to 7500 whithin 10 years.

Full time reserve to be axed.

Push to boost the number of Catholic officers.

Police boards to raise money and spent the extra.

Explicit statement that RUC not being disbanded.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Smith, Anna
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 27, 1999
Words:1023
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