Category: Archive

Dublin Report Unionist resistance to RUC change is no surprise

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

The release of the Patten Commission report into the reform of the RUC has not caused any major surprises. In the course of its drafting, it sprung more leaks than the Titanic.

Nor is it surprising that unionist leaders like David Trimble saw fit to greet it with shouts of "Shock, Horror!"

Like the Lambeg Drum and the right to march at Drumcree, such ritualistic reactions to the slightest possibility of change have become yet another cozy Northern tradition.

Besides, David Trimble and his merry band can hardly leave all of the running to Big Ian and Co. They have to establish that they are just as shocked and horrified as everybody else.

By the same token, they have to continue to attack the Northern secretary, Mo Mowlam, who has done more than any other representative of the British government to inject some reality to a Luddite territory, so resistant to change as to endanger its very existence.

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Members of the Ulster Unionist Party have now scurried off, copies of the commission report tucked under their armpits. Like Sinn Fein, and presumably members of the IRA, they will peruse its every sentence, often with the view to forcing changes in its purpose and in its language. Like all other Northern parties, they will do so with a weather eye on the possible reaction of political enemies and erstwhile friends alike.

They will do so because this has also become a damaging "tradition" for all of the political representatives in the North. They take the attitude that if the "other side" like any particular proposals, clearly something is wrong.

But like Mowlam, former Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten, could only come to certain decisions. Whatever about the image, commission members had to deal with the realities of the Northern situation.

One of the more persistent facts of Northern life is that the minority, growing more numerous with every census, just does not accept the RUC as it is. Most regard members of the force as the enemies of their tradition and their people.

While the balance of the evidence, historically speaking, suggests that they are perfectly correct, this is not the point. What is important is that almost 50 percent of the Northern population will never accept the RUC as being impartial.

The result is that there is no effective policing in the majority of nationalist neighborhoods. Obviously, this has allowed petty, and not so petty, crime to flourish. Ordinary people are at risk — the aged and the vulnerable, like the very young, who are prey to drug dealers — have no protection.

In turn, this has led to some of the most brutal killings and punishments carried out by vigilante-type members of the various paramilitary groups, especially, it has to be admitted, the IRA.

It is obvious that nobody can countenance the killing of young people who have carried out burglaries or are engaged in drug dealing. These are matters that have to be dealt with under the rule of law. Otherwise, Fascism triumphs and civilization is effectively destroyed.

Nobody, who respects democracy in the least, should be forced to countenance such actions. Yet they have had to do so because there is no alternative. Within nationalist areas in particular, the RUC is neither trusted nor acceptable. Without the vigilantes, brutal and undemocratic as they are, anarchy would be the rule and huge suffering the result.

Patten and his commission had to face these facts. Politicians like Trimble can pretend that they do not exist, just as they still insist that Mowlam should have declared that the IRA cease-fire had ended.

This, in turn, would have led to the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Northern Assembly and the end of the Good Friday peace agreement.

Not for the first time, Trimble is being disingenuous when he condemns the commission report. As leader of his party, he signed up to the terms of the Good Friday agreement. One of its primary provisions, so far as nationalist were concerned, was that the reform of the RUC was to be seriously considered.

The Patten Commission was to examine it, root and branch. Its remit was to recommend changes to allow the police force to become acceptable to all of the people.

It was obvious that major reforms would have to be carried out. Trimble can hardly be as shocked and horrified as he pretends to be with the unsurprising recommendations.

It was obvious that the name was going to be changed. Even in England, the word "Royal" is an anachronism.

In addition, the police force was organized, from its inception, on parallel military lines. Its hierarchy, particularly its officer echelons, is a carbon copy of the British Army.

In no way can the RUC be compared to any other normal police force in any other democracy in the world. Its former auxiliary section, the B-Specials was never anything other than a sectarian vigilante force, empowered with a wink and a nod to intimidate and coerce the minority.

The Rev. Ian Paisley surprised nobody when he thundered that the report’s release sound the "death knell" for the RUC.

It does nothing of the kind. The 128-page report, containing no less than 170 recommendations makes sense.

Paisley, as usual, makes little or no sense at all. He is against all change. Yet, no change means more violence.

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