Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:41 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP 5:41 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 3. Please let us for a moment reflect on why we are discussing the RUC name at all. The future name of the police service in Northern Ireland is being debated here today because some have mistakenly suggested that the current title "The Royal Ulster Constabulary" is a substantial barrier to creating a police service in Northern Ireland which reflects the society that it polices.

As I stated in Committee, the objectionable aspects of this Bill are founded on misinformation, false logic and a misinterpretation of the Belfast agreement.

Before the debate on Clause 1 progresses any further, I wish to address an important point of misinformation. Dropping the three words "Royal", "Ulster" and "Constabulary" from the name of the police in Northern Ireland will not--I stress, will not--solve the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service. Dropping those three words will serve only to increase unionist disaffection with the manner in which the Belfast agreement has been implemented so far.

The Government are continuing to consider the problem of Catholic under-representation in the police service, first, in ignorance of the most significant contributory factors; and, secondly, in ignorance of information that points towards those contributory factors as being the significant contributory factors.

The Government are ignoring the issue of intimidation. The under-representation of Catholics in the current police service has been largely contributed to by intimidation. We all know that republicans intimidate young Catholic men and women not to join the police. When those young Catholic men and women, whose strong sense of public duty enabled them to overcome those obstacles so that they joined the police, the IRA then targeted them as a priority--a priority for murder. The IRA prioritised those Catholic officers for murder simply to deter any potential police recruits from their community and to deter other people from defying their dictates.

Without an end to that despicable intimidation, dropping the "Royal" prefix will not provide us with the high numbers of Catholic applicants that we all desire.

On Second Reading, I read a letter to the House on this very issue of intimidation. I feel it is necessary to repeat what I then read. The letter states:

"I want to make my position clear to my co-Catholics in this part of Ireland. I joined the RUC in 1971 when living in Derry with my mother.

My father died in 1964, leaving us a poor family financially. I joined the police to help my mother 'make ends meet'.

When a prominent republican heard of this, he and three of his 'henchmen' called at my mother's house in the dead of night and threatened her, physically, over my job.

She was told what they would do to her if I wouldn't resign, and her windows were broken to emphasise the point.

That's the type now in government, that's why Catholics don't join the RUC. Pity these 'henchmen' don't have the background and good character required for the RUC".

That letter, simply signed "good Catholic", was published in the Irish News on 27th July of this year. Even then, the "good Catholic" was anonymous for fear of intimidation. Republican "henchmen" still offer that brand of advice to young Catholics and they still expect it to be heeded.

The Government are also ignoring the implicit discouragement by community leaders of the under-represented groups. Indeed, those community leaders are apparently in ignorance themselves of paragraph 15.2 of the Patten report. Community and other leaders of under-represented groups have continually failed to encourage young people from their communities to join the police.

That encouragement is essential. As it is, that current lack of encouragement can only be perceived as discouragement by the under-represented groups themselves. The Patten report, in paragraph 15.2, stated the need for those community leaders to encourage under-represented groups to apply to join the police. Patten did not state that that paragraph was conditional on any other aspect of Patten. Indeed, Patten stated that the removal of all discouragements should be a priority.

Those who view Patten as flawless should contemplate what has been done since the report was published to achieve the removal of discouragements at all, never mind as a priority. We all know what the answer is and "could do more" is a polite version.

The Government are also ignoring the recent increase in Catholic applicants to the police service. As has been stated in this House and in another place, during the period between the paramilitary-termed "cessation of military operations" and the suspension of recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Catholic applications to the police doubled from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. That doubling of applicants occurred despite the lack of encouragement from community leaders of under-represented groups and despite the continuation of intimidation and, of course, despite what we are supposed to believe is the major bar to Catholic applicants, despite the name of the police having a "Royal" prefix.

The Government are also in ignorance of the fact that young Irish Catholics simply do not avoid organisations with a "Royal" prefix. On the issue of that "Royal" prefix, I made my point clear in Committee. To my understanding, there is still no lack of young Irish Catholic sailors at the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

I mentioned a list of organisations in Committee, including the Royal Dublin Society, and I will not labour that point again save to note that the Sinn Fein leadership had no problem holding its annual conference at the RDS in Dublin in 1999. The venue of the RDS, or the Royal Dublin Society, was not a cause for non-attendance at that Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.

The Government are ignoring the unanimity of the Ulster peers in expressing their view in Committee in this House on the name change. Surely they cannot and should not continue to consider the name of the police service in Northern Ireland in ignorance of the continuing existence and effect of intimidation; in ignorance of the lack of support for under-represented groups from their community leaders; in ignorance of the recent rise in Catholic applicants without any name change; in ignorance of the polls in the Belfast Telegraph; and in ignorance of the views of the Ulster peers in this House.

We have a reputation in Ulster for speaking plainly. I am speaking plainly now. Please remove the blinkers and stop reasoning by a process of selective causation. Patten recommended a new name for the police in Northern Ireland. The amendments I am putting forward this evening offer that new, double-barrelled name. Patten recommended continuity between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the reformed police service. These amendments provide that continuity, respectfully recognising the dedication and sacrifice of officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

These amendments provide a means of dealing with the name issue within the parameters of Patten. They provide the best means of reversing increasing unionist disaffection with the implementation of the Belfast agreement and reversing increasing unionist disaffection with policing reform. Dispensing completely with the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not significantly increase the number of Catholic applicants to the police. That fact must now be clear.

As I have already stated, Patten identified the best means of redressing under-representation in the police force in paragraph 15.2. Let me briefly remind your Lordships, and especially the leaders of under-represented groups, what it said. Patten stated,

"We therefore recommend that all community leaders, including political party leaders and local councillors, bishops and priests, schoolteachers and sports authorities, should take steps to remove all discouragements to members of their communities applying to join the police, and make it a priority to encourage them to apply".

Just as strongly as I urge your Lordships tonight to support Amendments Nos. 1 and 3, I urge those leaders to re-read paragraph 15.2 and make that encouragement a belated priority. I beg to move.