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Unionists Reject Patten

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — The Ulster Unionist Party has formally rejected the Patten Report on policing as "flawed, objectionable and insulting" while setting up a working party to produce its own detailed alternative.

Both the UUP and the Rev. Ian Paisley’s DUP are planning political campaigns against the Patten Report, prompting nationalist concerns that the British government will cave in and fail to implement its recommendations.

While the report stops short of disbanding the RUC, as demanded by Sinn Fein, it does argue for a complete "transformation" of policing.

Reaction from unionists was swift, with the UUP leader, David Trimble, calling it the "most shoddy piece of work" he had seen in his life. Ian Paisley said the report had to be destroyed, or it would destroy the RUC.

Trimble said its proposal for a name change from "RUC" to "Northern Ireland Police Service" was totally unacceptable and "a gratuitous insult" to current and former RUC members.

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Patten’s report was set firmly within his terms of reference, laid down in the Good Friday Agreement, which tasked it with developing a policing service that would command the allegiance of both communities.

The SDLP welcomed the report, while Sinn Fein said it would not respond in a "knee-jerk" fashion but would consult its membership about the sections over which the party had serious doubts.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said "the jury is out" on the report, while the party’s justice spokeswoman, Bairbre de Brun, said it would be subjected to intense scrutiny in meetings up and down the country.

In the wake of unionist fury, Northern Secretary, Mo Mowlam, immediately lengthened the consultation period, which concerned nationalists because it gives unionists time to build up opposition to the package of reforms.

Mowlam said that a full implementation plan will be published in December. The report also recommends an international figure to oversee the report being put into practice, a proposal the UUP found "insulting."

The report concentrates on the future with only passing reference to the 302 police officers killed in the Troubles and has no reference the history of collusion, shoot-to-kill, or violence directed against Catholics.

Unionists were far quicker to condemn the report than nationalists, however, with Trimble predicting: "The community will be so outraged that it will reject the report as a whole. There is a chance that minds will close and the report will become even more contentious."

He said the only fundamental change needed to the RUC was the recruitment of many more Catholic officers. "In order to achieve that, it is necessary to put an end to the intimidation and social exclusion of Catholics who join the police force."

Paisley announced the establishment of two groups to consider strategy for opposing the recommendations. He accused Patten, a Catholic, of diligently doing the work of "Mother Church."

The Patten Report sets a target of attracting Catholics into the force as quickly until they constitute 30 percent in the year 2010 (at present Catholics, who make up 42 percent of the population, comprise only 7 percent of the RUC).

The report also recommends the creation of 29 District Partnership Policing Boards, or DPPBs. Twenty-six would be divided up along the lines of district council boundaries, along with three extra in Belfast to represent the north, south, east and west of the city.

Some of these could areas, particularly in Derry and west of the River Bann, are controlled by nationalist parties who would have a strong hand in negotiating an acceptable policing presence in their areas.

Most of the decision-making powers, however, would come from the new 19-member Policing Board, comprising 10 members from the Stormont Assembly, selected according to party strength, and nine members from other areas of the community.

At least two of these 19 board members would be Sinn Fein representatives, based on current voting patterns, and unionists are concerned at the influence the party would have both at the overall level and on the DPPBs.

Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said that an acid test will be if young nationalists and republicans feel confident enough to join the new service.

"I am sure that no nationalist will rush to join until absolutely convinced that they will be participating in a new democratically accountable policing service," he said.

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