Reformed RUC to drop Royal oath

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The Independent Online
RADICAL CHANGES to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, including dropping the oath, uniform and badge, will be recommended next month, according to a leaked report.

Unionists believe the proposals, the result of Chris Patten's long-awaited report on reform of the 77-year-old RUC, could destroy the Good Friday Agreement.

Among Mr Patten's suggestions are to rename the RUC the Police Service of Northern Ireland, scale down numbers from 13,000 to 7,500 within 10 years, and disband the 3,000-strong full-time reserve.

Mr Patten, a European Commissioner, says the Union flag should no longer fly from police stations and that politicians, including Sinn Fein, should sit on a new governing body.

All portraits of the Queen should be removed from reception areas and the badge, of a crown and a harp, should include neither British nor Irish emblems, he recommends, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

John Taylor, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, said: "These proposals are dynamite and could be a 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 centrepiece of a massive campaign to prevent the Government from accepting the Patten report."

Mr Patten is attempting to come up with a blueprint for policing Northern Ireland in a peaceful environment. His report is due to be published on 9 September, three days after the expected critical review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by George Mitchell, the ex US-senator.

The new police board would be able to buy in extra services from outside sources, paving the way for ex-terrorists to be involved in some law- enforcement operations. Training and recruitment would be overhauled to boost Catholic representation and pay off older officers. Now Catholics make up only eight per cent of the force, against 42 per cent of Northern Ireland's population.

Mr Patten proposes that the 38 divisions be organised into 26 areas, mirroring Northern Ireland's district councils. Each division would have a locally appointed police board, which would be able to raise extra money locally and decide how to spend it.