Ceasefire heralds public debate on RUC's future

With a public debate developing on future policing in the wake of last year's paramilitary ceasefires, the Northern Ireland Police Authority yesterday announced "an extensive community consultation project."

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?