Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Monday 24 January 2000 (continued)

Mr Dodds:

That is correct. Const Patrick Murphy was murdered by the IRA. There has, of course, been not one word of remorse or regret from the Sinn Féin leadership. Instead there has been eulogy and praise for the IRA killer at the very time when the Royal Ulster Constabulary is being marked for destruction.

What is the response from the Provisional movement? It is not a generous one; it is not one of acknowledgement. They are asking for more; nothing is ever enough. A prominent Sinn Féin spokesperson said that of course this did not go far enough. It is never enough. The bottom line in this whole debate is that it is not the behaviour of the Royal Ulster Constabulary which offends the Republican movement and Sinn Féin and the IRA, but rather the very existence of a police force in this part of the United Kingdom. The RUC is designed to uphold law and order and to prevent terrorists from getting their way by violent means against the wishes of the majority community and, indeed, the majority of the population in Northern Ireland as a whole. That is why all the other forces of law and order have been attacked, denigrated, demoralised and eventually destroyed over the years. That is why the concentration of attack has been on the RUC.

We all know that in a few years time, if these proposals go ahead, whatever this renamed force will be called will also be the subject of complaint. There will be calls for reform or disbandment until, eventually, they attempt to have their way by doing away with any police force in this part of the United Kingdom. Some people have said that the Secretary of State, in his statement last week, did grant some concessions. However, they were very minor and of little import.

The change of name has been delayed until Autumn 2001. Even the badge on the cap of the RUC has not been saved, despite reports that Mr Trimble was fighting very hard on that front. Nothing was delivered. The district policing partnership boards are not to be given powers to raise money from ratepayers to cover extra policing services. Of course, that does not mean that they will not get these powers in the future. The real objection that many of us have - I will deal with the concerns felt in due course - is that these boards are being set up at this level with participation and membership for Sinn Féin, an organisation part and parcel of the Republican movement which has been murdering and maiming police officers for more than 30 years. Talk about the politicisation and the introduction of politics into policing. There could not be a clearer illustration of the introduction of politics into policing than that proposal.

There are some who will say that we have to bear in mind that the vast majority of the Patten recommendations are non-controversial, that most of them could be welcomed. The reality is that most of those proposals were already being addressed by the RUC and the Police Authority. We did not need the Patten Commission. The real changes to be introduced by Patten are those which will affect the name, emblems and insignia and the political involvement in policing. There will be a drastic reduction in numbers, the full-time Reserve will be abolished, and Special Branch will be wiped out, with consequences for the operational capacity to defeat terrorism. There will also be the appointment of an international overseer.

I have been asked on a number of occasions if everything is perfect with the RUC and whether it should be left as it is. My party has made it clear - and I am sure that other parties have their views - that of course there are areas that need to be changed and where improvements can be made. I am not satisfied with the present make-up of the Police Authority. A substantial section of the community that we represent has been completely left off that body.

There are means by which police accountability could be addressed and where improvements to the operational effectiveness could be made, and proposals on those matters have been put to the Secretary of State. Patten's and the Government's proposals are not about improving the operational effectiveness of the RUC but about decimating and destroying it. They are about destroying its ethos and its effectiveness as a counter-terrorist organisation. That has been the aim of IRA/Sinn Féin from the very outset. What they could not accomplish by the bomb and the bullet this Government is delivering through an Act of Parliament. That is the reality, and that is what everyone in the community knows.

People are rightly alarmed that these proposals are coming at a time when the IRA has not given up anything. It has not given up its name or its threat to the community. The Chief Constable told us recently that the IRA and other paramilitary organisations on ceasefire retain the capacity to inflict enormous damage on the community through violence. That threat remains. It has not been removed. There has been no proposal for the dismantlement of the IRA machine, for a reduction in the number of terrorists. We have not heard anything from Sinn Féin regarding that. We have not heard anything about the introduction of a human rights regime for the leg-smashers, the racketeers and the intimidators, yet the law enforcement agency - the RUC - and the other security forces will have this imposed on them. The community will rightly ask what on earth kind of logic there is in this so-called peace process, which rewards the terrorist and their spokespersons by putting them in government, letting them out on the streets, creating political institutions that they are happy about and which destroy the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

When you speak to such people the only answer they give is that it is part of the price of the agreement - the price that the community is being asked to pay. The price is far too high - the community is not willing to sacrifice the RUC. We have to remember also - and we had news this morning of an arrest in the Irish Republic - the continuing threat being posed on both sides of the border by so-called dissident terrorist groups while these very proposals are being made.

Charges were levelled last week in the United States against a number of individuals - serious terrorist charges - and that shows us that, in spite of Sinn Féin's so-called commitment to peace, the reality is that its members are busy re-arming, getting their agents in the United States to tout for arms and shipping them across to Northern Ireland. Yet the arms that are being used to defend this community are to be removed.

We have to remember too that all this is all taking place in the context of a series of announcements that will be made over the next weeks and months. Proposals will be brought forward shortly on the review of the criminal justice system. Again, they are part of the Belfast Agreement, and concerns have already been raised, not least by the Lord Chief Justice, about what the impact of some of them may be. We also have ongoing proposals for so-called demilitarisation, and where is that going to end?

When, if ever, are we going to see, any reciprocation on the part of the terrorists for whom all these concessions are being made? The reality is that we will wait a very long time for any such reciprocal movement. They have not had to make any move so far in this process, and why should they begin now? That is the reality of it, and it is time that we had a firm pledge here from the First Minister and the leadership of his party. I make a distinction between the leadership and the grass-roots support of the Unionist Party. It is time that we had some indication from the leadership of the party to my left of what it is going to do about these proposals.

A leading columnist said in the 'Belfast Telegraph' on Saturday that it was now clear what Mr Trimble's line of defence is on any of these problems. He gets all furious and concerned on the day that an announcement is made, then he lets it all calm down for a number of months to let everybody get used to it, and then he proceeds as normal. This time I do not think that he is going to get away with it. People are simply not going to sit.

Dr Birnie:

Will the hon Member give way?

Mr Dodds:

No. The Member will have an opportunity to contribute later.

People in this community will simply not allow this issue to be swept under the carpet. On this issue there is no hiding place. There will be no opportunity simply to allow it all to calm down and be forgotten until the legislation comes forward in Parliament. Now is the time for something to be done, and I will indicate later what that should be. The ordinary members of the Ulster Unionist Party know what it is. I suspect that the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party also knows what it is, because it has been advised on it by leading members both publicly and in private. It remains to be seen whether it will listen.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Does my hon Friend not think it is a strange irony that Mr Patten has been appointed in Europe to look after security, freedom and safety of the individual? Yet he is the very person who has proposed that new recruits are to be appointed on a fifty-fifty basis.

11.15 am

Is it not surprising that those who have shouted loudest about religious discrimination are strangely quiet when we have deliberate discrimination which flies in the face of all the laws of the European Union?

Mr Dodds:

I thank my hon Friend for that intervention. The fact that the European Commissioner responsible for these issues is the same Chris Patten is an irony which will not be lost on people in Northern Ireland and, I suspect, in the United Kingdom as a whole. Having a man such as this in charge of that area will certainly re-inforce many of the deep concerns and suspicions that people have about the direction of the European Union.

On the point about fair employment laws, it is clear that there are grave question marks over the enforceability, admissibility and legality of this, as far as European legislation is concerned. A leading Queen's Counsel delivered an opinion on this matter and said that discrimination in the numbers of men and women being recruited to the RUC or the police service as a means of correcting imbalance would most assuredly be against European law. However, when he considered the matter on religious grounds, he was not quite sure.

Without any doubt the fair employment laws - laws which have been upheld and lauded for their fairness and heralded by this Government and by parties in the House as the only approach possible - will have to be abandoned for this proposal. These safeguards will have to be done away with when it comes to future recruitment for the police service, for it is quite clear that these proposals run counter to current fair employment law. How far will they go with rigging the system for recruitment when they are going to do away with the very fair employment laws that were passed to counter discrimination and imbalance - laws which parties in this House have vehemently supported over the years, in spite of criticism from us?

This is something that touches a nerve in the community. Is there any real doubt that if this proposal did not have the support of a sizeable section of the Nationalist or Republican community the Secretary of State's statement in the House of Commons last Wednesday would have been very different? If there had been a proposal on a series of recommendations, or if a commission had been set up, on a fundamentally divisive issue to which 100% of Nationalism was opposed, does anybody seriously think that the Government would have proceeded to implement these proposals or the recommendations of that Commission? Of course they would not.

We would have had a statement saying "We would like to have gone down this road; we still believe that it is the best way forward, but at this time no cross-community consensus exists, so we must search for a way forward that brings the two communities together." A petition on this matter, containing between 300,000 and 400,000 signatures was handed into 10 Downing Street, showing almost universal opposition to these reforms from within the organisation itself.

Mr McCartney:

Does the Member agree that the terms of the Belfast Agreement, in providing Mr Patten and his commission with their remit, specifically charged the commission to bring forward proposals for police reform that would enjoy widespread support throughout the community?

Mr Dodds:

The Member is absolutely correct. The terms of the Belfast Agreement have not been met because of the opposition to this.

I will now move on to deal with the terms of the agreement. It is clear that the agreement set up and provided for the remit and the parameters within which the commission would operate. The Member is absolutely right. This series of proposals and the Secretary of State's statement will alienate far more people than they satisfy, and that is entirely contrary to what the commission was supposed to be about.

The reason the Government have chosen to ignore their normal conventions in these areas and on these sorts of issues, the reason they have chosen to ignore the broad swathe of community opinion, to totally ignore representations from within the security forces - to whom they normally pay a great deal of attention, we are told - is that they are not interested in accommodating and listening to the views of the broad mass of the people. Their focus is on appeasing an extreme minority. In terms of the implementation of the Patten Report, the Government are interested only in satisfying Sinn Féin. That is just like saying that you have to make the police force in England acceptable to hoods, vandals and drug dealers, because only then will you get the support of such people for a policing service. You have to set down principles for a law enforcement agency and objective criteria under which they will be able to carry out their job effectively. If that does not please the criminal element, those who wish to see that force and the institutions of the state destroyed, so be it.

It is incumbent on any police force and law enforcement agency to carry out its duties impartially. A police ombudsman has been appointed with widespread support from all parties in the House. We have been told that the force itself has to reflect the entire community. In the words of the Sinn Féin leader "Can people from Crossmaglen and West Belfast feel comfortable in it?" I wonder what sort of people he had in mind. We all know who he had in mind. That sort of force will not be the effective policing force that the broad mass of people want, not least in Nationalist areas.

Nothing is more sickening than to listen to the slick and oily words of a Secretary of State who, before he was appointed, never set foot in Northern Ireland. He comes here and lectures us about the tremendous sacrifice, courage and valour of the RUC - and I have already paid tribute to the courage, valour and integrity of the RUC. The Secretary of State belatedly awarded them the George Cross; he talked about the force's being greater than its name. If that is so, why change it? With one hand he pays compliments and patronises, and with the other, he smashes the force that he is complimenting. No wonder many of us were a little concerned when the George Cross was awarded. At that time many people wondered if this would be a posthumous award; sadly, that is what it has turned out to be. The manipulative Secretary of State tried, through propaganda and spin doctoring, to put a different gloss on it, but the people know this. Instead of running around with his newly found friends that we read about in the media, he should go out and listen to ordinary people. Then he too would understand the deep resentment brought about by his action.

He has done dishonour to the service of RUC officers over 80 years. I will not go into details on the various changes, for I know that other Members will speak on those aspects. We have dealt with issues relating to the name of the RUC. The Secretary of State says that any new badge decided by a new police board will have to meet the test of cross-community support.

He does away with the force, even though that move does not have cross-community support, but he says that any new name must meet that test. No doubt the call for cross-community consensus will be warmly welcomed by the SDLP. What about a bit of cross-community consensus for reforms of the RUC? Of course, that is not on, for the only agenda is to appease the extreme minority in Sinn Féin/IRA and its supporters.

What about the police force down South, the Garda Síochána? Its symbol has a very close identification with the Irish State. Has there been any proposal to do away with its symbols or insignia? Have there been any proposals from the Irish Government who are so quick to comment on Patten and on what should happen in Northern Ireland? Have they made any proposals on recruitment?

I understand that, at the last count, they had to engage in a pretty intense exercise to find the number of Protestants in the Garda Síochána. They did not amount to more than 20, yet in terms of community balance, there should be almost 300 - more than 10 times more. What do the gardaí or the Irish Government propose? What are the British Government doing to press the Irish Government on these issues? What is the First Minister doing?

Rev Dr William McCrea:

Does my hon Friend know what representations the SDLP has made to the Southern Government about the serious matter of there being only 20 Protestant members of the Garda Síochána?

Mr Dodds:

I will wait with interest to see whether the SDLP takes up that challenge and says whether it has issued any statements or made any representations of concern on the issue. I certainly have not heard anything about that from those who have expressed concern about the implications of the Patten Report and the so-called imbalance in the police.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Is it not a fact that all senior officers of the gardaí are political appointments by the Government?

Mr Dodds:

Members have only to read some recent history of Irish political life, particularly during the Haughey Administration, to see the extent of political interference with senior members of the gardaí. People were transferred from one police station to another at the behest of their political masters for political reasons. Police cars were used to ferry witnesses and to get people offside.

I commend some of that literature to those who are so quick to promote the values of the tremendous Irish Republic and who urge us to look southwards to see an example of modern pluralist democracy. They should study the way in which the police down there have been interfered with and how political corruption has led to the resignation of not just one but several Cabinet Ministers over the years.

Mr Speaker:

Order. I draw the Member's attention to the question of time, as he has now been speaking for more than 35 minutes. That in itself is not out of order, but the Business Committee has determined that the debate will end at 6 o'clock. A substantial number of Members wish to contribute to the debate. There is also an amendment for debate, so I appeal to the Member and to all other Members to allow time for all contributors to put their views.

Mr Dodds:

Mr Speaker, I hesitate to say that you could have said that in less time. I will certainly bear your comments in mind and will draw my remarks to a close. [Interruption]

Mr Speaker:

Order. The more points of order that are raised now or, indeed, earlier, the less time there is available for debate.

Mr Dodds:

I understand that at least three hours has been set aside for the debate, so the points of order prior to the debate should not have had any effect.

11.30 am

I will draw my remarks to a close because I want as many Members as possible to speak. In view of the outrage that has been expressed and the concerns of many, people are asking what will happen here now. I have already indicated how the First Minister intends to play it - basically he intends to do very little. He says that when the matter comes before the House of Commons, amendments will be moved. Quite right. I have no difficulty with that, and I am sure that all Members who are concerned will support those amendments.

However, the reality is, as pointed out at the weekend by the deputy leader of the UUP, Mr Taylor, that this will not make any difference - it will be a waste of time. The Government's majority is such that it will not make any difference.

So what do we do? Do we do what Ken Maginnis tried to do and have a private word in the ear of the Secretary of State? Mr Maginnis highlighted his great concern, only to be shafted by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons.

Dr Birnie:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Dodds:

No. The Member will have an opportunity later.

Mr Maginnis was told by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons that his public pronouncements were very different from the compliments that he paid him in private. In respect of this issue, should the First Minister and his party not exercise the leverage on the Government which they are entitled to exercise? They have been urged to do so by the DUP and the whole Unionist community.

There is no point in dithering. There is no point in sitting on. There is no point in hoping that at some stage down the road the Secretary of State or the Government will suddenly change their mind. It is up to Mr Trimble and his Colleagues to say that they will not go on propping up the institutions of the agreement and tell the Secretary of State that they are not prepared to preside over the RUC's being axed.

This is not the time to issue pious statements of condemnation. This is the time to actually do something. Action by the UUP is the only way that these institutions will be collapsed or brought down. Under the legislation only three Unionist Members have to be on the Executive to make it work. That is why, for the benefit of those denser members of the UUP who are speaking from a seated position, the UUP has to move on this. Perhaps they could use their calculators to work out why that is the case.

However, the reality is that many of us will look in vain for that judgement. Again I make the distinction between the leadership of the UUP, as exemplified by the First Minister, and the grass-roots members of the party, who take a very different view on this. We will look in vain, however, for a sign that the leadership will start to exercise good judgement given what the gentlemen who make up that leadership have said over the years about the Patten Commission. Their judgement has certainly been lacking.

I have only to look at what Mr Maginnis, the security spokesman for the UUP, said on 4 June 1998. He said that he was

"very happy with the make-up of the Patten Commission."

And he went on

"I think practically we could not have hoped for anything better."

Then we had the same Mr Maginnis speaking on behalf of his party on 28 April 1998. This is what he said then:

"If we are going to have a sensible look at the RUC, then I believe that Chris Patten's appointment is progress, because there was talk that we were going to have some distant international figure, perhaps an American or a European."

Do I hear the name George Mitchell being mentioned? Was it Ken Maginnis who mentioned George Mitchell first of all?

However, as Chris Patten said,

"What on earth did these people think they were going to get when they signed up to the Belfast Agreement?"

The remit, the terms and conditions and the parameters of the Patten Commission were in the agreement for all to see.

As Frank Millar, a former honorary secretary and chief executive of the Ulster Unionist Party, said, in his capacity as a journalist in the 'Irish Times', on 20 January 1999,

"In the mind of Mr Patten and his colleagues, as to most outside observers, it was, and is, manifestly clear that the International Commission and the Belfast Agreement were the two sides of the same coin".

A blind man on a galloping horse could have seen that the principal of parity of esteem, as enshrined in the agreement, would translate into the end of the identification of Northern Ireland's police service with the symbolism of the British State. That is the reality. Everybody knows it. Let us not make the same mistake again. Let the Ulster Unionist Party not make the same mistake as they have with the Executive. IRA/Sinn Féin has been allowed into the Executive. Pledges have been broken. Promises of "No guns, no government" have been ditched in the hope and expectation that IRA/Sinn Féin would deliver on decommissioning. As we are seeing on a daily basis, that is not happening.

Now it looks like the same mistake is going to be made again. "Let us implement Patten. Let us go for all these changes." they say, in the hope, belief and expectation that all will be well further down the line. The reality is that if this is allowed to proceed - and it will proceed only if, as I said earlier, action is not taken- then someday it will too late to save the RUC. This community will find that it is too late to have the proper defence it needs against the terrorist threat.

Mr Neeson:

I beg to move the following amendment: Delete all the words after "This" and add

"Assembly believes that, while the Patten Report causes pain to many, it can provide a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland, responsive to and representative of the entire community.

This Assembly urges leaders from all sections of the community to give full support to the proposed reformed police service and to encourage people to join."

Like Mr Dodds, I welcome the opportunity to debate the Patten Report. The Assembly and the Business Committee were wise to delay the debate until today because this has provided us with the opportunity to respond to the Secretary of State's speech. The amendment before you, in my name and that of Mr Close, is one which is a balanced reflection on the Patten Report and the Government's response to it. The Alliance Party broadly welcomes the report. However, we, like others, have some reservations.

When we submitted our response on the Patten Report to the Government, we put forward our vision of policing in Northern Ireland. We want to see a single, integrated, professional police service, which is representative of, responsible to, and carrying the confidence of the entire community in Northern Ireland. We believe that the responsibilities of the police are, primarily, to serve and protect the public and to uphold the rule of law fairly and impartially. We are pleased that, in the main, the report reflects this vision.

In saying that, we recognise the pain that many people in Northern Ireland are going through as a result of the report. I served on the Police Authority for six years, and I walked behind many of the coffins of RUC personnel. We have to understand the pain and hurt felt by people in Northern Ireland - particularly in many areas of the Unionist community. By the same token we must also understand the hurt felt by every family in Northern Ireland which has been bereaved during the 30 years of the troubles. We have all suffered. We are all feeling the pain. However, if we are to move forward, we have to move forward in a climate of change.

Yesterday I bought the book 'Lost Lives'. Once again, it brought home to me the number of friends, relations, civilians and police personnel that gave up their lives during the troubles. The one message that is important for this Assembly to adhere to is that while we are all trying to create a society of forgiveness we must not forget the suffering that has been felt by the whole community over that futile 30 years of violence and the troubles.

One of my greatest difficulties with the Patten Commission is that it did not give the RUC the recognition it deserves. The Secretary of State referred to this in his Commons statement last week, and I believe that we also need to put on record our appreciation of the RUC's work during the troubles. Some people regarded it as cynical, but I welcomed the award of the George Cross to the RUC.

We have some reservations. First, my party is concerned about the proposed local police boards. I am in favour of local consultation. The community police liaison committees have made a worthwhile contribution throughout Northern Ireland, although it has always been my criticism that those committees based purely on the local council have not been as effective as those which involved all of the community. There is a need for local consultation. However, despite the Secretary of State's decision to leave the question of finance to the criminal justice review, I want to put on record my grave reservations about giving district councils any authority to raise money for policing. I hope that a mechanism for local consultation can be established, bearing in mind that if this Assembly succeeds, there could be changes within local government.

The other area about which I want to express concern is recruitment. I want to see a balanced police service. At the moment it is totally unbalanced in its gender and religious make-up, but to devise a quota system that is illegal, under both British and European law, is not on. Quotas are both illegal and unnecessary. The 1991 census shows that the composition of the target 18-30 group is roughly balanced. Looking beyond that, I want to see a police service that reflects not only religion and gender but also race. This is not the most pluralist society, but there are sizeable ethnic minorities developing. Their numbers should be reflected in the police service.

I welcome the Secretary of State's statement on the possible downsizing of the police service. It is important that any such downsizing be based on the security situation and not on political considerations. It is important that the Chief Constable be given the impartial role of advising the Government on the needs of his service and the effects of any downsizing of that police service. We must ensure that no irresponsible action is taken.

One of the major aspects of our amendment is to call on community leaders to encourage recruitment to the proposed reformed police service from right across the community. Here, I must take issue with a number of groups in the Assembly.

11.45 am

I believe that there is an onus and a responsibility on Sinn Féin and Republicans to acknowledge the changes that have been taking place recently. The Executive has been established. The Government have responded to the Patten Report. Proposals are coming forward for demilitarisation. However, if we are going to move forward, it must be on the basis of trust.

David Trimble has set a deadline of the end of January in relation to decommissioning. My party believes that the Good Friday Agreement clearly set a May deadline - but the May deadline is for the completion of decommissioning by both Republicans and Loyalists. An opinion poll in 'The Irish Times' last Saturday showed that 86% of people in the Irish Republic believe that decommissioning should start now. I am firmly of that view.

I must be honest. Like many people living in Northern Ireland, I am getting a little tired of the arrogance of Republicans with regard to the changes that are taking place in Northern Ireland. To move forward is not a matter of having one's cake and eating it as well. All sides of the community have to make sacrifices to ensure that this society can break away from the 30 years of violence and move forward into a truly peaceful society.

The proposals in the Patten Report were brought forward on the basis of a peaceful society. That has to be created. Therefore if people hold back, they are also holding back on the implementation of the Patten Report - and it is for the Chief Constable to decide on any downsizing that might be necessary.

Another matter that annoys me is the GAA's response to the report. Once again it is begrudging, rather than moving forward and accepting the importance and nature of the Patten Report. It is holding back. It will not change Rule 21, which, in essence, is political apartheid. In any society in the twenty-first century, political apartheid is unacceptable. It is not on. If this were South Africa, there would have been an outcry about it.

Therefore if a truly pluralist society, based on trust and confidence, is to be created, this form of discrimination by organisations like the GAA can not be afforded. I know that there are those in the GAA who want to see change, and I urge them to bring about the abolition of the iniquitous Rule 21 sooner rather than later.

Going back to the opinion poll in 'The Irish Times', it related to all paramilitary organisations. Therefore, while I have pointed the finger at Republicans, I point it equally at Loyalist paramilitary groups. The murder in Portadown just over a week ago clearly shows that unless decommissioning takes place then incidents like this will continue throughout Northern Ireland. The onus and responsibility on Loyalists is equal to that on Republicans. Why can we not get away from the "win/lose" situation in Northern Ireland? Nationalists are perceived to have won by the Government's response on the Patten Report, and Unionists have lost. How are we going to get away from this mentality? The Patten Report reflects the policing needs of the new society that we hope to create in Northern Ireland.

The main proposal shows the total hypocrisy of the DUP, whose support for the police has been conditional. I remember the leader of the DUP, when he was being carried out of the Assembly Chamber on 23 June 1986, pointing his finger at the policemen and saying

"Do not come running to me if your homes are attacked".

That typifies the double standards of the DUP throughout the troubles.

Many police officers have said to me that they are embarrassed to have the DUP leading the so-called "Save the RUC Campaign". They are embarrassed by the activities and double standards of the DUP during the last 30 years.

In our response to the Patten Report we must recognise that throughout the 30 years of the troubles the police have been the piggy in the middle. The best example of that has been at Drumcree. If the police let the parade down the Garvaghy Road, they are attacked by Republicans; if they do not let the parade down the Garvaghy Road, they are attacked by Unionists. In 1996 we remember the First Minister, Mr Trimble, pointing the finger at police personnel on the Garvaghy Road. Support for the police has been conditional.

The whole Assembly can accept this amendment. It aims to reflect on the sacrifice of the police over the 30 years of the troubles and yet recognise that the Patten Report aims to provide effective and efficient policing. It is a plan that could be adopted by police services in other parts of the world. I urge the leaders of every community in Northern Ireland to encourage people to join the proposed, reformed police service.

Mr Benson:

To see the good name of the RUC being sullied by Chris Patten and his fellow executioners is one of the most painful experiences that I have had to endure. I say this as one who had the great honour of serving in the RUC for over 30 years. During that time I served with the finest group of men and women one could ever wish to meet - Roman Catholic and Protestant alike - and the suggested dropping of the proud name RUC is an insult not only to those who have faithfully served the citizens of this country but also to the 302 people who made the supreme sacrifice and gave up their lives. It is particularly insulting to the widows, the children and the fathers and mothers who lost loved ones in the prime of life.

How Chris Patten, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and the other betrayers who have contributed to this dirty deed can feel comfortable or sleep in their beds is beyond my comprehension. Of course, Patten's reward has been a £200,000-a-year job in the European set-up. Is it too much to hope that when the legislation to enact this is passing through Parliament, enough hon Members will restore the good name of the RUC? If not, I suggest that the George Cross, rightly awarded to the RUC, be not passed on to the new police service for Northern Ireland. It was earned proudly by the RUC and should remain with that great name.

No one could say that Roman Catholics are discriminated against in the RUC. Roman Catholics have held every rank up to and including Assistant Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Constable. Indeed, at one stage a Roman Catholic Assistant Chief Constable was the head of Special Branch.

The force was certainly well served by men such as the late Brendan Durkan, who reached the high rank of district inspector. He was the father of our new Minister of Finance and Personnel, Mark Durkan, and he was a close friend of my Colleague Sir John Gorman.

Another colleague was the late Supt Danny McDaid, who was a native of the Bogside in Londonderry. Danny gave great assistance in providing welfare to injured members and widows during my five years as chairman of the Police Federation, No 7 Region.

The religious imbalance in the RUC is the result of the intimidation, by murdering Republican thugs, of Roman Catholics from Nationalist areas who had joined the RUC.


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