Queen awards RUC George Cross

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The Independent Online

The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to honour the courage and dedication of police officers and their families during the troubles in Northern Ireland, it was announced today.

The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to honour the courage and dedication of police officers and their families during the troubles in Northern Ireland, it was announced today.

Only the war-torn island of Malta, under enemy siege during the Second World War, has received such a high honour which is second only to the Victoria Cross and is usually awarded to individuals.

The award, formally agreed by the Queen, was made on the advice of Government ministers.

Buckingham Palace announced: "The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to honour the courage and dedication of the officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their families who have shared their hardships."

The medal was instituted in 1940 by the Queen's father, George VI for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger".

This is only the second occasion on which the George Cross has been awarded to anyone other than to individuals.

In 1942, the George Cross was conferred on Malta, in recognition of the conspicuous gallantry and fortitude displayed by the inhabitants during devastating enemy bombardments.

The award of the George Cross to the RUC, a predominantly Protestant force, comes at a delicate stage in the protracted Northern Ireland peace process.

It is likely to please Unionists but at the same time anger Republicans.

The citation for the award reads: "For the past 30 years the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been both the bulwark against, and the main target of, a sustained and brutal terrorist campaign.

"The force has suffered heavily in protecting both sides of the community from danger - 302 officers have been killed in the line of duty and thousands more injured, many seriously.

"Many officers have been ostracised by their own community and others have been forced to leave their homes in the face of threat to them or their families.

"As Northern Ireland reaches a turning point in its political development this award is made to recognise the collective courage and dedication to duty of all those who have served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and who have accepted the danger and stress this has brought to them and to their families."

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said: "This is a momentous day in the history of the RUC."

Speaking in Belfast minutes after it was announced the Queen was bestowing the George Cross on the force, he said it was a humbling moment.

He said it recognised "all the courage and sacrifice by the men and women of the RUC".

Sir Ronnie said it was the only occasion, apart from the awarding of the medal to the people of Malta because of their unparalleled bravery, that the George Cross had been awarded for an act of collective courage.

He said: "It is, therefore, a humbling experience for me to acknowledge that, as in the case of the people of Malta, the collective courage and sacrifice of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been recognised in this most meaningful and public way by Her Majesty."

The George Cross was instituted in 1940 by the Queen's father, George VI, for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger".

Buckingham Palace announced: "The Queen has awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to honour the courage and dedication of the officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their families who have shared their hardships."

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