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Northern Ireland Assembly

Monday 24 January 2000 (continued)

12.45 pm

The report concluded that the RUC had been at the core of - indeed, had given rise to - the human rights abuses and civil unrest that has plagued Northern Ireland for the last 30 years. The position of the Committee on International Relations is that terrorism in Northern Ireland is driven not by Sinn Féin/IRA but by the RUC.

This inversion of reality is not confined to the rigid Nationalism that directs the Northern Ireland policy of the Clinton Administration. The Patten Report fully incorporates this entire mindset. The core logic of the Patten Report is that what it refers to as "the return of hope, healing and peace" to Northern Ireland requires the effective destruction of the RUC and the incorporation of Republicans into a so-called Northern Ireland Police Service.

The Patten Report claims that the consent required right across the community in any liberal democracy for effective policing has been absent from the RUC. This claim is the ostensible basis for the effective destruction of the RUC recommended by the report, but it is demonstrably false. In reality, the statistics used in the report, along with the results of annual community attitude surveys since the mid-1990s, almost certainly demonstrate a level of cross-community support for the RUC unmatched by that for any other police force in the United Kingdom.

What is the real reason for the effective destruction of the RUC? The real reason is that the destruction of the RUC is a core demand of Sinn Féin/IRA, backed by the SDLP. Sinn Féin/IRA knows that without the destruction of the RUC, the terrorist war cannot be won. The SDLP is equally tied into the demands and objectives of Irish Nationalism. The position is set out in their 1995 policy document 'Policing in Northern Ireland'. This document claims that what it calls "the problem of policing in Northern Ireland" is incapable of resolution in the absence of a so-called political settlement agreeable to Nationalists.

The SDLP objection to the RUC is fundamentally a political objection that it shares with Sinn Féin/IRA, based on the demands of Irish Nationalism. This means that no amount of so-called reform of the RUC could make it acceptable to the SDLP. The real strategy of the SDLP is to use the concocted claim that the RUC is radically unacceptable to Catholics as a powerful lever for constitutional change in Northern Ireland in the direction of Irish unity.

The Patten Report meets the core requirements of Sinn Féin/IRA and the SDLP in respect of the destruction of the RUC, but that is not the final appeasement of terrorism. The report further recommends the replacement of the RUC with a Northern Ireland police service. Sinn Féin/IRA is guaranteed a central role in the political control and operational structure of the so-called new police dispensation in Northern Ireland. Recruitment from the Republican movement is a reiterated requirement of the report. The report states that the police service in Northern Ireland needs to include appropriately large numbers of Nationalists, including Republicans, if it is to be fully effective. The inclusion of Republicans - individuals committed to IRA terrorism - in policing in Northern Ireland would also be accommodated by the recommendation in the report that police support services should be contracted out by district councils and paid for from local rates. There is no doubt that in Nationalist districts of Northern Ireland these support services would be provided by members of the IRA.

Patten puts the incorporation of Sinn Féin/IRA into the heart of policing in Northern Ireland and in an all-Ireland framework; the report clearly envisages the development of an all-Ireland police structure. This structure would initially be based on the recruitment of members of the Gardaí into the police service of Northern Ireland and a programme of long-term personnel exchanges between the Northern Ireland police and the Gardaí. The location of the new Northern Ireland police service in an all-Ireland structure would provide the Republic with a developing role in the policing of Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland, to which the Patten report gives this developing role in policing in Northern Ireland, has effectively been a safe haven for the IRA and other Republican terrorists since 1970. Members of Jack Lynch's Fianna Fáil Government established the Provisional IRA in the early 1970s. The status of the Republic as a safe haven for Republican terrorists is beyond dispute. This is due to the maintenance of Sinn Féin's headquarters in Dublin; the failure of successive Governments in the Republic, over a 30-year period, to extradite republican terrorists to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom; and the storage and ease of movement of a hugh arsenal of IRA arms in the Republic.

These considerations mean that for 30 years the Republic of Ireland has been responsible for what was, in effect, state-sponsored terrorism directed against the Protestant and Unionist community in Northern Ireland. The implementation of the Patten Report will establish the policing of law-abiding citizens in Northern Ireland by IRA terrorists within a developing all-Ireland structure involving the country - the Republic of Ireland - that initiated and sustained IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The Patten Report rewards 30 years of Sinn Féin/IRA terrorism by incorporating both the terrorists and the Republic of Ireland - the state which sponsored them - into the policing of the society against which that terrorism was directed. The 'Daily Telegraph' of 28 September 1999 described this scenario as an "insane project". That is true, but it is not the whole truth. The implementation of the Patten Report will destroy the rule of law in Northern Ireland that the officers of the RUC fought and died to defend, and it will incorporate the terrorist organisation responsible for their murder into the policing of Northern Ireland. The Patten Report exemplifies not mere insanity but wickedness in respect of any civilised understanding of the requirements of public morality.

Finally, every one of the recommendations of the Patten Report is in keeping with the requirements of the Belfast Agreement. The agreement requires that the new so-called police service must

"recognise the full and equal legitimacy and worth of the identities, senses of allegiance and ethos of all sections of the community in Northern Ireland."

This means that the agreement requires that policing in Northern Ireland must be based on recognition of the legitimacy and worth of the Irish Republican tradition that spawned and has sustained 30 years of IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland.

However, these considerations have not prevented the UUP leadership - again I make the distinction made by Mr Dodds, I am talking about the UUP leadership - that delivered the Belfast Agreement from insulting the intelligence and political integrity of the Unionist electorate by attempting now to present themselves as the champions of the RUC. In fact, they fought the referendum and Assembly elections on the claim that they had actually saved the RUC by signing up to the Belfast Agreement. There is only one honourable course of action left to the leadership of the RUC - and I address this point to Mr Trimble - and that is to resign immediately from the Executive and collapse this edifice that he has constructed to replace the police in Northern Ireland with terrorists.

Mr Ervine:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. For Mr Roche's own sake, he may well wish to say "the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party" rather than "the leadership of the RUC".

Mr Roche:

I thank the Member for that correction. I meant the leadership of the UUP.

Mr Watson:

I too must express my disgust and abhorrence at the Secretary of State's announced decision to implement the vast majority of the Patten Commission's Report. This announcement has further demoralised the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and it gives Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries every hope that they can infiltrate and corrupt the police force that they hate. Society in the rest of the United Kingdom does not aspire to have a police force that is acceptable to anarchists, so why do the people of Northern Ireland have to be subjected to this? For many years the reputation of the RUC has been successfully demonised at home and abroad by Sinn Fein/IRA. They have classed the RUC as sectarian, yet people know that the overwhelming reason why Roman Catholics represent only 8% of the force is due to Republican murder and intimidation. The intimidation is such as was witnessed in Carrickmore against Msgr Faul.

We have seen little recognition for a force that over the last 30 years, through its vigilance and intelligence work, has prevented Northern Ireland from descending into anarchy. We will not forget the 302 officers who were murdered or the 9,000 injured - some horrifically - as a direct result of terrorism. The courage and suffering of the members of the force has been ignored.

It is particularly painful to see how their tormentors are to be rewarded by the changing of the RUC's name and adopting new insignia. Little of the ethos of the RUC will remain, and Republicans are rubbing their hands in glee. They know that they are now perfectly placed to decide on suitable recruits for the new force. Though it has been confirmed that convicted terrorists cannot join the police, there are hundreds of terrorists who have never been charged. The new force will not be able to keep out these enemies of the state, as recruitment will be handed over to civilians.

The political representatives of the IRA, who have murdered members of the RUC, will have a share in the management of the district policing partnership boards. A police board will include two frontmen for the IRA, so an organisation that has yet to give up a single bullet or an ounce of Semtex, an organisation that is still murdering and mutilating its own people with virtual impunity, will oversee these boards.

There is no reason for implementing any of these controversial recommendations unless it is the British Government's intention to hand over parts of this Province to Republican and Loyalist fascists. The British taxpayer already subsidises many of these volunteers - I hope that he will not give them a uniform and a salary. The latest concession, like all the others made to the Irish Republicans by an Administration which, tragically, goes under the name of Her Majesty's Government, is aimed at weakening Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom, and it is sad that some Unionists have yet to waken up to this fact.

Unionists who voted in favour of the Belfast Agreement should remember what their endorsement has meant so far. Republican and Loyalist prisoners convicted of the most heinous crimes against innocent people are being released after serving a few years of their sentence. A Northern Ireland Executive was set up on a fifty-fifty Unionist/Nationalist basis - conveniently ignoring the fact that Unionists account for 60% of the total Assembly membership. Sinn Féin members hold ministerial positions, without any decommissioning of IRA weapons. Indeed, dropping "Northern Ireland" from the title of their Departments and banning the flying of the Union flag from departmental buildings were among the first things they did.

North/South institutions were set up to legitimise the direct influence of the Republic of Ireland in the day-to-day affairs of the Province. Vital security installations were scaled down in areas where Republican paramilitaries still hold considerable sway. Finally, the RUC has been emasculated and effectively disbanded, with plans to recruit officers to a new force on a fifty-fifty Protestant/Roman Catholic basis - in clear breach of fair employment legislation. What further enticements will there be to convince the Provos to make the move that may save the so-called peace process?

The leader of the SDLP, in a response in the House of Commons, would not call on Roman Catholics to join the new force. The First Minister showed his displeasure at the Patten announcement. This confirmed what many of us had thought - that he had been shafted once again.

The majority of the Unionist family will not forgive or forget what some of their representatives have done, and they will show their disgust when they next get their chance at the polls. Since last Wednesday I have been inundated by calls from Unionists who had supported the agreement but are now expressing their total disgust at this latest treachery. They wish that they could turn back the clock. They were well warned by the anti-agreement lobby, but, sadly, they were misled into ignoring that warning.

I am proud to have served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, and I count myself part of the greater family of the RUC. Religion was never mentioned, either among my Colleagues or by the people that we served and protected. Sadly, the reformed force will remain as unacceptable to Sinn Féin/IRA as the existing one is.

We should not forget that Queen Victoria bestowed the "Royal" designation to the RUC's predecessor, the Royal Irish Constabulary, in 1867. It was carried forward to the new force on its inception in 1922. In 1867 the words of the Inspector General encapsulated the depth of feeling at that time:

"It will, I am persuaded, be gratifying to the Force to find that the loyalty and courage displayed by them during the late unhappy disturbances and their efficiency at all times (which have elicited admiration throughout the United Kingdom, and been noticed in both Houses of Parliament) have now been recognised in a quarter so illustrious."

1.00 pm

Whatever the circumstances that prevailed in the unhappy disturbances at the time, they surely pale into insignificance when compared to the terrorist onslaught endured by the RUC over the last 30 years. We continue to be blitzed with the view that this peace process is all about parity of esteem. Surely the RUC badge encapsulates that with the crown, the harp and the shamrock. Unfortunately, the change in its title and badge are for nothing more than political expediency. The RUC longs for peace more than any other section of the community, and it is happy with modernising reforms and the encouragement of more Roman Catholic recruits.

In conclusion, the Patten proposals are the most odious manifestation of this obnoxious peace process - they stink of continuing appeasement of the IRA.

I support the motion.

Mr Ervine:

The people in my community know hurt, anger, frustration and annoyance. There are many reasons, not least that things are happening that people do not fully understand. They get very simplistic responses when they ask about what is going on in this society. For instance, the last Member who spoke mentioned the polls and talked about what will happen at the next election. Perhaps some in our constituency will be looking at people like that who make such threats to their political partners in this Assembly.

I know what is going on in the rooms of those who are defending the RUC but are anti-agreement. They are angry, and they have every right to be angry and upset. They have every right to share the sense of hurt that this community feels, but this is the bit that no one hears. One will say "Isn't it terrible what they are doing to the RUC?", and one of the clever ones will say "Aye, I know. Shout loudly, for it will not do us any harm in the long run." That is a truth.

We also need to look at those who have lumped Republicanism and Loyalism together, and the last Member who spoke said that Loyalists hate the RUC. I do not know how he would know. Nevertheless, just to put it on public record, my Colleague and I have been kept alive on numerous occasions only because of the efforts of the RUC.

The area from which I come - for those who really want to know - is the Braniel estate, about two miles from here, as the crow flies. The police drive through there without any difficulty, and if anybody wants to make a phone call because there is trouble in his street, or his house has been broken into, or his car has been damaged, or whatever, he phones the RUC.

I have never seen anybody being molested where I live, which is in a solidly working-class, Loyalist area. So this very simplistic notion of the RUC being hated by Loyalists is quite incredible. But then you cannot have a go at the Provos without lumping the bad Prod people in as well. That is because people are moralists and have to lump all us bad people together.

What is happening to the RUC is shameful, and it is wrong. It is bad enough that the British Secretary of State said what he did last week, but he said it against a backdrop of some very interesting things. When we created the baby, the Good Friday Agreement, we were very quick to realise that we required a visit from the marriage-guidance counsellor, George Mitchell, to put us straight on how the new family might best look after the agreement. While he managed to create the circumstances where there was a movement forward - or an impetus that suggested a movement forward - I am afraid that we are in need of great assistance from marriage-guidance counsellors again.

Against a backdrop of what I am about to say, the Secretary of State made his determination on the future of the RUC.

If someone had told Angelo Fusco 10 years ago that he would go North and appear in front of a judge who, because of the Good Friday Agreement, would release him on bail and that, when the case was heard, he would be sentenced and serve probably one month or six weeks in prison, he would have said "Where do I sign on?". That is not what we have heard from the Provos; that is not what we have heard from Sinn Féin - disgusting, arrogant, dishonourable Sinn Féin. What we have heard is the agitation that has again sent a tremor into the Unionist community and compounded the difficulty of moderate Unionism by the narrowing of the ground even further.

This was followed by an incident involving "he who visits Europe and speaks in strange languages", Barry McElduff, who went to Carrickmore with a bunch of lunatics to attack those who wanted to deal with the circumstances of a crime - an issue about which everyone in this community should worry. This was another awful message to send to the people who want the Good Friday Agreement to work but who are worried about the implacable in-your-face politics of Sinn Féin.

Of course, the SDLP could not be outdone, because when the Provos are showing their greenness, the SDLP must respond. So we had Downpatrick, where the flag became an issue. It is to be replaced with St Patrick's flag. Within the confines of Down District Council the SDLP has the right to do such a thing. The tragedy is that it did so without worrying about or giving consideration to the consequences of its actions.

Last week we heard about Bairbre de Brún and her very simplistic decision on the Union flag, a decision which flies in the face of the recognition that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom for so long as it is the wish of the greater number of people so to do. It thus flew in the face of the Good Friday Agreement.

Enter the treatment of the Duchess of Abercorn in Pomeroy, treatment which was pathetic and arrogant in the extreme. It was good that Assembly Member Denis Haughey was on hand to put the SDLP's position on record - but he is the only one I have heard speaking on the issue then or since.

All of these things have been happening in a rush, and they have all been hitting the Unionist community like Exocets. They have all been destabilising factors, not only in the Unionist community but, especially from a Sinn Féin perspective, for their partners in this process. Is this the new dispensation that Mary Nelis almost knew what she was talking about when she spoke?

Mary Nelis talked about the bad peelers and about how we have to root out those RUC officers who have performed badly on human rights. She did not mention the IRA. We can all go to Ronnie Flanagan and ask for the overtime sheets and find out who was stationed where and who did this, but such sheets do not exist for the Provos, or the UVF, or the UDA, or the INLA, or for a whole lot of other people who have broken the laws of this society. But Mary Nelis wishes to go back to deal with the RUC.

Whatever happened to the new dispensation? Whatever happened to the fact that we are to leave our pasts behind us? Whatever happened to the argument that we too advocated that people have the right to change, that this society has the right to change and that all elements within this society, because of the polluted circumstances and difficulties under which we have lived, under a new dispensation, have the right to change? Everybody that is except the RUC.

I listened to that doyen of intellectual prowess, Mick Murphy, on the radio this morning. He was addressing a crowd of people in Carrickmore - 200 "Shinners", or whatever they were - and his cry was for disbandment. Mary Nelis was a wee bit more polite today, but really what they are saying is this: "Let us offer no prize for Unionist pain."

I am reminded of listening to the Chief Constable when the Patten Report was published. The Progressive Unionist Party took its line from his, for he said something extremely pertinent and sensible. He said that he wished to live in a pluralist society where policing is about the protection of people and property, rather than being the political football which it has tragically had to be in this divided society. He said the important question was whether the prize fitted the pain.

The truth of the matter - as shown by the commentaries I have heard today from the SDLP and Sinn Féin - is that the prize does not fit the pain. Alex Attwood said "if" it has the potential and "maybe". Sinn Féin was not even as open as that. Mick Murphy was certainly not open when he spoke yesterday evening. All of Sinn Féin's utterances have been pathetic and extremely arrogant. Each one of them has further narrowed the ground on which moderate Unionism, the partner in the Good Friday Agreement, can walk.

The consequences have been such that this political process is in serious danger. It is in trouble for many reasons: the attitude of Sinn Féin; its implacability as perceived by the Unionist community; and the potential that this implacability will continue in the form of in-your-face politics. It does not allow us to deal with practical issues, but simply challenges Unionism consistently and tries to put it on the back foot. It has in its ranks those who want to take over Unionism, those who frankly enjoy the difficulties moderate Unionism faces. While saying it has entered a new dispensation, by its actions Sinn Féin offers fuel to those who do not like the Good Friday Agreement, who are not involved in the marriage. Indeed, as regards the Good Friday Agreement and relationships with Members in this House, it might well be carrying on outside the marriage. Essentially, it is working to the benefit of those who do not advocate the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, wishing to see its destruction instead. And they are making a good job of it. One has to ask oneself what its long-term strategy is, and what gain might be derived from it.

Several Members mentioned the decommissioning issue. They might not all have used the word, although some certainly did, but one said that already, without a single bullet or ounce of explosives being handed in, the RUC has gone. They do not realise what they have been doing. The Secretary of State has seen the in-your-face agitation on the part of Sinn Féin and recognised the demand coming not just from David Trimble, who undoubtedly needs it, but from every Unionist in this Chamber, that decommissioning take place. Not only must it take place, but it must do so before 12 February 2000.

I fear that the cause célèbre that decommissioning has become has created in the mind of the Secretary of State the need to pander to Mr Adams while Sinn Féin pursues its in-your-face politics. He does this in the hope that he can exact a price from Mr Adams to deliver Mr Trimble. Perhaps without realising it, they have created the circumstances where there is now a trade-off. Indeed, I certainly would not expect some elements in the House to realise this, since any argument against those who support the agreement will do, and any hurdle they can create is justified. As a result of this trade-off, we have lost the very thing we did not want to lose.

The name of the RUC, the oath and, potentially, the flag are to go, to some extent because we did not create a fierce enough battle to retain them. We must all accept responsibility for this. It happened against the backdrop of what was needed in the future, and who was in a comfortable position at the moment, for that is how the British Government play the game. I believe Mr Mandelson felt he had to pander to Mr Adams in order to bolster him, enabling him to make the move to assist Mr Trimble.

1.15 pm

If he does assist Trimble what are the DUP, the UKUP, the UUAP and the NIUP going to do? Are they going to applaud Sinn Féin for having delivered on decommissioning? Are they going to think that they can make it easier for people when the police service of Northern Ireland takes its place amidst the sense of anger, hurt and frustration that will exist in the Unionist community? Will a token gesture of decommissioning do it? Will it be 1% or 5%? How much do you need to feel comfortable that you allowed the trade-off to take place? Because allow the trade-off to take place, you did - believe me, you did.

You tried it with prisoners; that did not work. The next two big issues - the only two big issues - on the agenda were the RUC and decommissioning, and you walked right into it. All the clever, exalted people walked right into it.

However, I want to make an appeal - if it can be heard, for I cannot guarantee that UTV or BBC will broadcast it. The ordinary people in the streets including, there is evidence to suggest, the vast majority of the Catholic people want the process of the Good Friday Agreement to work. I personally, as a representative of the PUP, am being sucked out of the process by Sinn Féin's actions.

The Nationalist and Catholic community will have to make a decision. Is the in-your-face street politics of Sinn Féin acceptable, or does this new dispensation get the opportunity to carry on? The question and decision is for them. I do not mean that as a threat in any way; I am basing it on an analysis of where we are. If the IRA and Sinn Féin do not move to assist this new dispensation, it will fall. It will fall, and Sinn Féin might do all right out of it, but there are those waiting in the wings for them to say "I told you so." However, be assured that those waiting in the wings for moderate Unionism are many; in fact they are in here, and they are joyous at the thought of what might not happen between now and 12 February. We have but a short time to find out if Sinn Féin is serious about the new dispensation. The deadline was once May 2000, but I fear that Gerry Adams has also made a blunder from his own perspective, because the deadline now, like it or not, is 12 February.

Mr Speaker:

I would like to comment on the conduct of the debate. I did not impose a time limit for two reasons. The first was that I had not been informed by all the parties how many people wanted to speak, and that made it impossible. Secondly, if I were to have imposed a short time limit it would have been impossible for Members to develop their argument. Some Members have pushed the boat out regarding this, resulting in the fact that their Colleagues have had a shorter time to speak. I have been giving parties an opportunity to voice their views in respect of the report, and we will continue with that.

Another two Members wish to speak, Ms Monica McWilliams, and Mr Robert McCartney. That will end the debate for this morning - the morning having passed. We will resume at 2.30 pm with questions, as Standing Orders require. From 4 o'clock until 6 o'clock, by leave of the Assembly, there will be a time limit of five minutes on all speeches so that as many Members as possible who are on the list may have their say. We will then proceed to the winding-up and the vote. That is the best compromise I can make. To have put a limit on at the beginning would have been unrealistic and unworkable.

Mr Morrow:

Perhaps you would clarify a point for me, Mr Speaker. You have a list of Members who wish to speak and a considerable number are from my party, but they are not here yet.

Mr Speaker:

That is the problem. It is impossible for me to judge times, if the names of Members who wish to speak are not given in advance. It is also impossible to impose a time limit on people when other Members have been able to speak for a considerable time.

Mr McCartney:

As you said, Mr Speaker, since Members who have already spoken had no time limit placed on them, remaining Members should not have one either. I understood, upon enquiry, that the House was rising at 1.30 pm. That was the information I was given. From what you say that does not appear to have been entirely accurate.

Mr Speaker:

At an earlier stage, my intention was that we would rise at 1.30 pm. I fondly hoped that we might have got through the run by then. Clearly we will not rise at 1.30 pm if both you and Ms McWilliams are to have the opportunity to speak. We will continue until you have spoken, and then we will rise, but we must resume at 2.30 pm.

Mr McCartney:

But that will put a time limit on the Members yet to speak. If we are going to rise before 2.30 pm, and two Members have to speak before then, that will put a time limit on them.

Mr Speaker:

Mr McCartney is quite correct, but there is a problem. If everybody wants to speak and time limits are put on us, we cannot function. I am simply doing the best I can. If Mr McCartney wishes, we can certainly allow Ms McWilliams to speak and then rise. There will then be an opportunity for Mr McCartney to speak, but he will have to appreciate that that will eat out of the period between 4.00 pm and the vote at 6.00 pm and that fewer Members will have an opportunity to speak then. I am doing my best to accommodate everyone.

Mr McCartney:

With the greatest respect, Mr Speaker, all I ask is that my party be given exactly the same privileges as the other parties have been given to date. I ask for no special privileges - simply for the same amount of time that has been offered to every other party.

Mr Speaker:

Mr McCartney, that is impossible. Since all the others operated without a time limit, theoretically you could speak - and I know from experience that you have the capacity - from now until 6.00 pm and then claim that you wanted more time. We are using up time, and there are only two possibilities. Either we rise after Ms McWilliams has spoken and you speak after 4.00 pm, or we do our best to see that you both get an opportunity to speak before lunch. I am going to rule now that we will go on for as long as is physically possible and that you will get time to speak. We are wasting time.

Mr McCartney:

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker:

I am not taking any more points of order on this issue. We are only wasting time.

Mr McCartney:

Mr Speaker, that I want to understand what you are saying. If I opt to speak at 4.00 pm will I be restricted by the five-minute rule or will I have the same opportunity that has been afforded to everyone else? That is all I want to know.

Mr Speaker:

If we do that, it will reduce the time that is available to the other Members, and I will have to consider that. That is not the proposition that I was putting to the Assembly. I said that we would complete this, that we would break for lunch and that when the debate resumed, there would be five minutes for each Member. That was the proposition I put. If that is not acceptable, I will have to reconsider it, and we will have to make a decision before we resume at 4.00 pm.

Mr McCartney:

With respect, Mr Speaker, and I stand on the record. That, if I may say so, is not what you said. You said that if I chose to speak at 4.00 pm and took up a certain amount of time it might limit other Members. You never ruled that if I chose to speak at 4.00 pm I would be confined to the five-minute rule, which would be manifestly unfair.

Mr Speaker:

Order. I have not ruled so. I have said that if we are going to continue on, I will not rule on that issue until 4.00 pm. Then we will see what happens. I am quite clear about that. At this point I want to call Ms McWilliams. Then I will call you to speak, you will speak as you choose, and we will take things subsequently.

Ms McWilliams:

The debate has reflected the difficulties that we faced during the negotiations when the issue of policing was being discussed. Therefore, we made the right decision when we suggested that an independent international commission be established to review policing in Northern Ireland. We have not heard anything we have not heard before about the divisions that exist with regard to how we want to be policed in the future. Patten and his commissioners faced a number of questions, as, indeed, the Secretary of State does now. It is a unique opportunity to devise a new form of policing for a modern society. How many people in any country have that opportunity? It is one that should be welcomed. However, it was not just policing for a modern society that Patten was addressing. He was also addressing the issue of policing in a divided society.

We are now having a different kind of discussion than we had prior to the Belfast Agreement. The discussion is now about the unacknowledged nature of the war. People are referring to the troubles, or the 30 years of conflict as a war. The unacknowledged nature of that war also led to a discussion as to what should happen to prisoners. We hear too from the whole range of victims about what did or did not happen in relation to resources and services for them.

Likewise we face the issue of policing. I always find it interesting to see how many Members are prepared to declare that they were members of the RUC. It reflects the nature of the debate in the Chamber. There are those who served in the RUC and therefore have a lot to add to the debate, and there are those who have no knowledge of the RUC and make judgements based on cases that appeared before the courts or the European courts. It would have been surprising if the police had not been made accountable. That is what happens in other countries. Cases of infringements of human rights exist elsewhere - for instance, in the United States and western European countries including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

On top of that, there has been the 30 years of conflict. We should acknowledge that the police serving on the ground were operating in a quasi-military fashion because of the nature of that conflict which we are now beginning to acknowledge was a war, and we should also acknowledge those who were operating in a quasi-service oriented role.

I taught the police for 20 years at the University of Ulster. When the bomb went off and killed three police officers, the staff and the police standards moved to the new police college at Garnerville. I remember having to take cognizance at that time of the fact that in front of me was a group of students who were no more homogeneous than students in any of my other classes. I had as much difficulty informing and educating that group of students about social policy, about the current ways of dealing with crime and about the changing social trends in relation to the family. In that group there were some who did not believe in changing attitudes or trends, and there were others who were prepared to understand the need for that and the need to be educated and trained in the workings of modern society.

There seems to be some idea in the House that the police service is somehow homogeneous and that police officers are antagonistic to the changes that are taking place, as recommended by Patten. That is not the case. We know from listening to police officers and to the Chief Constable that when a society makes the transition from war to peace, reorientation will have to take place. That applies to our police service and to any police force that operates in a society that was full of conflict.

1.30 pm

I take issue with those who say that Patten did not research his work. He took an enormous amount of submissions from people in Northern Ireland, and he visited police forces elsewhere and heard from experts in the field. He took on board 95% of the Police Federation's recommendations. That has not been emphasised sufficiently. I have carried out research on issues such as rape, domestic violence and child abuse, and I was always unable to get figures from the RUC on the number of cases that occurred in any particular year, on how many of them went forward for prosecution or on how many of them fell or were withdrawn. That is the kind of simple information that ought to drive any police service anywhere in the world. If we do not know the extent of the problem, we do not know how resources should be deployed to deal with it.

Patten's investigations made him realise the amount of work that would be needed to create a police service for a modern society. Many resources were diverted into dealing with political terrorism and, often as a result of attitudes in the police service, it could not or would not deal with crime such as domestic terrorism, as those who are the victims of such crime would call it. It is right for him to draw on good practice elsewhere and that we have the most modern computerised system and information technology available.

Patten also talks about changing the culture, the ethos and the operational structures so that policing is based less on that quasi-military function of the past or on the drilling that took up so much time in training. There must be more emphasis on a problem-solving approach.

I am a little concerned about the recommendations that suggest that all education should take place in the police college. From what I hear and know of police officers lives, I am aware of the fact that those who talk only to other police officers and who live beside them, do not have the life education that is required. Such education should take place both in university and in the police college.

I was surprised to find that there was little debate this morning on the name change. Much has been made of this in the media; it has led to an enormous amount of discussion and caused a great deal of pain for those in the Unionist community. In the 1920's the name was changed from Royal Irish Constabulary to Royal Ulster Constabulary. That is a precedent, and no doubt the change then was as painful as this one it will be. In acknowledging that, Patten and the Secretary of State have concluded that to service a divided community a new name was required. Inasmuch as symbolic change may be required, organisational, structural and policy changes must also be a prerogative of any part of the legislation.

I have a major criticism of the part of the report which deals with the composition of the new police service. It should, according to the report, be fair, impartial and representative. It never ceases to surprise me that in Northern Ireland the focus, in respect of impartial representation, is on Catholics and Protestants. Monitoring figures are based on religion and denomination, but the representation of women, about 15%, is lower than in police services elsewhere. Now we have an opportunity to correct that. It is difficult to attract women into police services elsewhere, but here we have an enormous difficulty.

I take issue with Nigel Dodds, Sean Neeson, Denis Watson and, probably, Paddy Roche who said that the Patten recommendations, in seeking to promote the idea that there should be more Catholics in the new police service, go against the legislation.

This question has come up also in relation to gender. The Equality Commission has looked at this. I attended a seminar organised by the Committee for the Administration of Justice, and it asked some of the commissioners why they felt it was so difficult to deal with the issue of the representation of women in the police service. The commissioners said that it could be ruled as being outside the current law. Fortunately a member of the Equality Commission was there and said that it was not outside of the European Equal Treatment Directive of 1976.

Indeed, if domestic law goes further than the text of that directive, but has the same purpose, then it may be possible to interpret its outcome as being in keeping with the spirit of that directive. In the treaty of Amsterdam, Article 13 covers this issue. It is inside the purpose of that legislation to include targets and timetables, not just in relation to religion but also in relation to gender.


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