Decision on renaming RUC is delayed to appease Unionists

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The Independent Online

In a major concession to Unionist opinion, the Government has postponed a final decision on renaming the Royal Ulster Constabulary for at least a year. The move is likely to generate much republican and nationalist anger.

The decision - to be outlined in the Northern Ireland Policing Bill, published today - is aimed at helping the Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, sell the latest IRA arms proposals to a crucial party meeting on Saturday.

The postponement will be seen as a significant victoryfor Mr Trimble, who has been lobbying the Government in an attempt to save the RUC name.

Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced in January that the force was to be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland. But the Bill will give the secretary of state the power to decide on the force's name after consultation with a new policing board to be set up next April.

Meanwhile, two international monitors who visited Belfast yesterday will return secretly to Ireland - probably before the end of the month - to make their first inspection of IRA arms dumps. Cyril Ramaphosa, former secretary-general of the African National Congress, and the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari will be flown in surreptitiously to be shown three major dumps which they will continue to inspect at regular intervals. During yesterday's visit they met important players in the peace process.

The visit coincided with the announcement of a new "Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation," which Mr Mandelson said would honour the achievements and sacrifices of the RUC. The foundation will provide scholarships and support policing innovations.