Why inflict pointless wounds on Ulster's Protestants?

Edwards RUC officers face a future in which people they know to be terrorists become their colleagues

THEY WON'T admit it, of course, but Sinn Fein are hugging themselves over the Patten report. Once again, by employing a combination of intimidation, propaganda and ruthless, brilliant negotiating techniques, they have persuaded well-meaning liberals to do their dirty work for them in the name of peace and reconciliation. They will look grave in the hope of extracting more concessions from a Secretary of State whom they believe to be a push-over, but they are grinning in private.

With the best of motives, Chris Patten and his colleagues have produced recommendations that not only pointlessly wound the Ulster Protestant community and further demoralise the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but also give loyalist and republican paramilitaries every hope that they can infiltrate and corrupt the police force they hate.

At his press conference yesterday, Patten kept referring to the need to provide a police force that was acceptable to the whole community - and it is this ludicrous aspiration that is at the heart of the report's deficiencies. In Britain, society does not aspire to have a police force that is acceptable to anarchists, Yardies and Triads. So why should the RUC be made acceptable to the IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force and all the other fascists who hate the forces of law and order?

The average, decent Ulster policeman has been bitterly hurt over the last few years by the manner in which the force of which he is proud has been successfully demonised at home and abroad by Sinn Fein. He hears it dismissed as sectarian by republican spokesmen, yet he knows that the overwhelming reason why only 8 per cent of police are Catholic is because of republican murder and intimidation. A Catholic joining the RUC was seen by republicans as a traitor, was in more danger of being murdered than were his Protestant colleagues, usually had to leave the community in which he was brought up, and could meet his parents and siblings only away from the family home. Protestant policemen marvel at the sheer courage of their Catholic colleagues.

These policemen look on with incredulity as interviewers listen respectfully to known IRA leaders pontificating about human rights violations by the police. They cannot understand a topsy-turvy world in which they, who have suffered 302 deaths (equivalent to 250 annually on the mainland) and almost 9,000 injuries, come under criticism from those who did most of the killing and maiming. They see little recognition that for 30 years the RUC has stopped Northern Ireland from descending into anarchy and, through its vigilance and intelligence work, has stopped innumerable republican and loyalist bullets and bombs from hitting targets on the British mainland and in the Republic of Ireland.

It is the sense that their courage and suffering have been ignored and their tormentors rewarded that has made the recommendations for name-change and new insignia so particularly painful. They know from personal experience what surveys have shown - that the vast majority of nationalists are uninterested in such changes, and therefore that they are being recommended to please republicans.

"I have walked behind dozens of coffins draped in the union flag and bearing a cap and badge," said one police reservist to me yesterday. "They were good enough for us to die under. Now they are being removed as if they were badges of shame. As if we didn't deserve them." "My son has that name on his headstone," said Pearl Graham, whose son John was murdered by the IRA only two years ago. "Who wants to change it? Terrorists?"

"We're told the peace process is all about parity of esteem," said a serving policeman. "Surely that is exactly what our badge - with its crown, harp and shamrock - is all about. Is Chris Patten telling us that no symbol of our state can be tolerated, because Martin McGuinness disapproves?'

But if it is symbols that are at present causing the most anguish, it is the proposals for recruitment and accountability that are truly terrifying to those who care about civil society. More than any other section of the community, the vulnerable RUC long for peace, and they are happy with modernising reforms, encouragement of Catholic recruits and so on. But the Patten report has the potential to legitimise paramilitary policing.

Patten has reacted angrily to suggestions that he is calling for a Balkanisation of the police, yet that is exactly the thrust of the recommendations about part-time police reserves. "We see a great advantage in a part-time reserve locally recruited from every neighbourhood in Northern Ireland... enhancing the connection between the police and the community".

They must already be rubbing their hands gleefully in, for instance, South Armagh, where the IRA rules OK and will be perfectly placed to decide on suitable recruits. RUC officers know that if this recommendation goes through, they face a future in which people they know to be terrorists will become their colleagues.

While Patten says categorically that convicted terrorists cannot join the police, there are hundreds of them out there who have never been charged. "There must be no predisposition to exclude candidates from republican backgrounds," says Patten. So since recruitment is likely to be handed over to civilians, the force will be unable to keep out those whom they know to be enemies of the state.

There are awful perils, too, in the proposals for district policing "partnership boards". The IRA would have no trouble making their influence felt in west Belfast, and we can await with interest the struggle in east Belfast between those representing the hoods of the UVF and the UDA. Oh yes, and all this will be overseen by a Police Board with two frontpeople for the IRA, yet to give up a bullet or an ounce of Semtex and still murdering and mutilating its own people with virtual impunity.

Patten was supposed to report for a Northern Ireland at peace, run by a power-sharing executive. As things stand, there can be no excuse for implementing any of the controversial recommendations. Unless, that is, the British and Irish governments really intend to hand parts of the province over to republican and loyalist fascists. The British taxpayer already pays the dole of these "volunteers". Is he now to give them a uniform and a salary?

The author's latest book is `The Faithful Tribe' (HarperCollins)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor