Report on RUC is window-dressing, say nationalists

 

NATIONALIST politicians have reacted dismissively to the Northern Ireland Police Authority's consultation report which recommended no change in the RUC's name, uniform or badge but suggested that the oath of allegiance might be altered.

Mr David Cook, the sacked chairman of the authority, accused the current membership of watering down the original planned contents of the report. The new chairman, Mr Pat Armstrong, defending the report, said the only alteration was the removal of Mr Cook's prologue.

Unionist politicians were generally happy with the document. Mr Ken Maginnis, of the Ulster Unionist Party, praised the "cautious" way it approached controversial issues.

Mr Armstrong claimed the report's brief was more wide ranging than merely addressing the issue of nationalist suspicions of the RUC. The reality, however, was that the public focus was on how the authority would approach issues of particular concern to nationalists.

On the crucial question of persuading nationalists to join the force, nationalist politicians complained that the lengthy report contained only one recommendation a proposal that Sir Patrick Mayhew should replace the RUC's oath of allegiance with an affirmation that did not mention the British monarch.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein claimed the rest, in terms of making the RUC generally acceptable, was mere window dressing.

The police authority proposed that on RUC letterheads and other printed matter the name of the force should be referred to as "RUC Northern Ireland's Police Service". Mr Armstrong said this did not constitute an alternative title, merely a suffix elaborating on the RUC's function.

The authority said the RUC uniform and badge should also remain. It justified retaining the harp and crown on the RUC badge on the grounds that these insignia reflected the North's two traditions.

It did not make a recommendation on the flying of the Union Jack over RUC stations but said it would consult with Sir Patrick Mayhew and the RUC chief constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, about flying the flag on specific dates.

The authority, opposing SDLP proposals, said there was insufficient community support for the regionalisation of the RUC. It did not "propose to investigate this concept further".

The report was compiled after the authority sent leaflets to 600,000 homes seeking views on the RUC's future role. This drew 8,000 written submissions. More than half mentioned the issue of the RUC name, with 95 per cent saying there should be no change in title.

In a subsequent opinion poll of 2,700, nine out of 10 Protestants said there should be no name change, with five out often Catholics favouring a change in the title of the RUC.