Ceasefire heralds public debate on RUC's future
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Thursday 05 January 1995
The authority, which exercises oversight over the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has invited written submissions from groups and individuals on future policing needs and priorities. It intends to publish a report later in the year. Its chairman, a solicitor and former Alliance Party politician, David Cook, said: "The emphasis of our consultation is at community level. We want to know how people see the police and how they see them developing over the next 10 to 15 years."
The RUC's Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, recently called on the Government to set up a commission to make recommendations on future policing structures. He has rejected suggestions that the RUC should be divided into regional forces.
The Police Federation also favours a commission. Its spokesman, Sam Beattie, said yesterday: "The worst-case scenario would be that the RUC would end up as some sort of a political football. We're entitled to better than that."
Inevitably, however, the contentious subject of policing has become intertwined with the question of an overall political settlement in Northern Ireland. The policing debate now developing has already heard opinions ranging from those fiercely protectiveof the RUC to voices calling for its complete disbandment.
A permanent peace will clearly mean a new approach to policing, which for 25 years has been directed in large measure to coping with the republican and loyalist campaigns of violence. It will also mean a significant reduction in the size of the RUC, which has more than 12,000 officers.
There is no agreement on how the RUC should be structured - or indeed whether it should continue to exist. The Sinn Fein position, for example, is that the force is unacceptable and should be disbanded, although Sinn Fein spokesmen have spoken of interimarrangements in advance of a political settlement. More moderate nationalist opinion has suggested different structures, a different name and different uniforms.
Historically, the RUC has always had an acceptability problem with the nationalist community, much of which has tended to regard it as a force under either Unionist or British Government influence. In religious terms, its make-up is more than 90 per centProtestant. The force has been praised in many quarters for its increased professionalism over the years, but many controversies during the Troubles have left a residue of bitterness, especially among working-class nationalists.
Allegations of harassment, indifference to complaints and lack of accountability are commonplace and indicative of a widespread lack of trust. Within the force itself there are signs of financial anxiety. The cessation of violence has reduced the daily threat to officers' lives, but it has also hit their pay-packets as overtime has been dramatically reduced.
There is also insecurity over livelihoods if peace proves permanent, since it is assumed that many jobs will eventually disappear. The overall debate is set to continue between those who favour keeping changes as limited as possible and those who seek full-scale reforms.
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...
£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...