Debate resumed on amendment to motion:
This House rejects the Patten Commission’s report and calls upon the Secretary of State to reject proposals which would reward and elevate terrorists while demoralising and destroying the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whose members, both full-time and part-time, have diligently and with great distinction served the whole community. — [Mr Dodds]
Which amendment was:
"Assembly believes that while the Patten Report causes pain to many, it can provide a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland, responsive to and representative of the entire community.
This Assembly urges leaders from all sections of the community to give full support to the proposed reformed police service and to encourage people to join." — [Mr Neeson]
I remind Members that there is a limit to the length of the debate, which must end at 6.00 pm. The winding-up speeches for the amendment and motion have to be completed before that. Then there is the vote — and I expect that there will be one. I asked the leave of the House in the later part of this morning to put a time limit of five minutes on all speeches to try to get through as many as possible. Members from all parties will have a chance to speak at some length.
During last week’s discussion, I was struck by the words of Bishop Mehaffey, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry. I agree with him that many elements in the Nationalist tradition have failed to appreciate the sense of hurt and loss felt in Unionist circles over the Government’s decision to implement, almost in full, the Patten Report. Nor do they understand the Protestant — and I use the word advisedly — sense of policing which differs from the concept of policing held by most Nationalists.
The first duty of the police is to uphold law and order; its purpose is not to be owned by any section of the community — by the Unionist tradition any more than by the Nationalist tradition.
When I spoke in the Ulster Hall in support of the RUC, I made the point that the name of the force was hated by those who had reason to fear retribution for their murderous activities. It would be a shame if the SDLP were to find common cause with them today — I hope this does not occur.
Since that rally, there has been a new factor in the equation. The most cherished award for civilian bravery — the George Cross — has been awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The designation "Royal" was also vouchsafed by the sovereign. Neither award can be removed by political sleight of hand. Would it be right for the RUC to be treated in the same fashion as the traitor Anthony Blunt? The presentation of the George Cross will be an extraordinary occasion.
But will the present plan proceed? Even in its attenuated state, the Lords threw out the jury Bill last week. I know that some will say that Blair has a 170-seat majority, but if the Lords show the same virility over Patten’s plan and reject its worst features, will the Government want yet another battle with them? We shall have to wait and see.
Surely even Patten’s power, which we have already seen has had the effect of reprieving his dogs Whiskey and Soda from quarantine, must not be invulnerable to the persuasive power of those who see the injustice and obeisance to hatred which the name change represents.
The two DUP Ministers have been calling on the UUP to withdraw from the Executive. If they feel so strongly about this and believe it will do any good, why do they not have the courage of their convictions and take the lead?
No; I have only two minutes left.
They insist this battle be fought not here but at Westminster. Has no one in the "No surrender" party learned the lessons for Unionism of repeated boycotts? If anyone in the DUP dares to suggest that the UUP is not prepared to fight on this issue, he will have me to deal with — [Interruption]
I challenge anyone on their Benches to match my credentials on this issue.
While I support the spirit of today’s motion, we must understand what it represents is an attempt to rend asunder the middle ground in this Assembly, to create a split between the UUP and the SDLP and to undermine confidence in the new arrangements. I urge the SDLP not to fall into that trap but instead to heed the advice of the Catholic bishops and show some generosity of spirit. It can best do this by addressing Msgr Faul’s suggestion of a dual name — a name that both traditions can feel comfortable with and identify with. Any lack of confidence in the police on the part of Nationalists should not be replaced by a lack of confidence in another section of the community.
As it stands, the Patten Report in its entirety has not received cross-community approval. That should be no less of a concern than if the situation were reversed. It would be folly for constitutional Nationalists to forget that the agreement talks of a police service acceptable to all — Unionists as well as Nationalists. We on these Benches have taken on board the need for police reform and a changed security environment.
I assure Sir John Gorman that the SDLP has never had common cause with paramilitaries of any kind, nor will it in the future.
The debate has been disappointing. I was dismayed by some of the remarks by Unionist Members, particularly among the DUP. Perhaps that is not surprising. The reality is that there seems to be a blind failure by the DUP and the general body of Unionism to realise that police reform is essential to our future. The DUP made no attempt to admit that there was something wrong with the way in which the RUC was constituted, that it was not representative and that it was far from being an effective policing service.
The criticisms of the SDLP and, indeed, of Seamus Mallon who acted for many years as our justice spokesman, were unwarranted. The SDLP has given consistent leadership on the policing debate. It has consistently criticised the RUC and policing in Northern Ireland. It has highlighted the inadequacy of the RUC as a policing service and its failure to provide effective and representative policing in Northern Ireland. That case has been consistently put over the past 25 years. The Patten Report vindicated our position because it recognised the inadequacy of the RUC.
Our position has nothing to do with Sinn Féin, which has adopted an unrealistic stance in calling for the disbandment of the RUC. We want to see a transformation of policing in Northern Ireland through the implementation of the radical policing reforms which Patten represents. Patten provides an opportunity and a challenge for all Members. Our reputations as politicians could be determined by how we respond to this issue.
Naturally, we are divided in the Assembly and have different political points of view. But I suspect that we are united by a common vision of creating a police service that would naturally attract and enjoy, rather than command, the loyalty and support of the widest possible spectrum of our society.
Much has been said today about the gardaí. It is useful to look at the history of the gardaí which was formed in the midst of a civil war in the Irish Free State. It managed successfully to establish itself as a legitimate police service despite the political turmoil of the early 1920s. Part of its success was due to the decision to abandon guns for normal duties and to create a truly civilian police service for the whole community. As Commissioner Staines, the first Commissioner of the gardaí, said
"The civic guard will succeed not by force of arms, or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people."
I hope that the new policing service will learn that lesson and create a moral authority as servants of all the people of Northern Ireland, irrespective of their political viewpoints.
There is little doubt that throughout its history the RUC was not acceptable to the Nationalist community, and the Hunt report illustrated that. At its highest, Catholic membership of the RUC was at 11%, very little different from the level during the course of the troubles.
May I end by saying that an American police expert who visited me recently was of the opinion that Patten was a blueprint for the policing of any society in today’s world. That is a great tribute to Commissioner Patten and his esteemed colleagues such as Senator Maurice Hayes, Miss Kathleen O’Toole and Mr Peter Smith QC. These are men and women of learning and wisdom to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.
The 19 January 2000 was a dark day for the people of Ulster. On that day the gravy train of concessions to the IRA continued firmly on the Belfast Agreement track, and the gallant members of the RUC and the RUCR were bundled together to be led as lambs to the slaughter. The Secretary of State had the audacity to tell the House of Commons
"In the last 30 years, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has faced demands completely unlike those faced by any other force in the United Kingdom or, indeed, elsewhere in the developed world. I would like to place on record the Government’s deep admiration for the courage, resilience and professionalism with which the RUC has met these challenges. The accounts that I have heard of personal tragedy, pain and loss in the RUC family are profoundly moving and humbling. Three hundred and two officers have been killed, and many thousands injured. We all owe the RUC a huge debt of gratitude."
This all sounds wonderful, and with such a recommendation one would have expected a different announcement from the one that followed that statement by the Secretary of State. He said that, in spite of its professionalism, courage and resilience, it had to go. And not only did it have to go, but every vestige of it had to go too — the badge and every other recognisable RUC symbol.
One must ask this question: how did we ever get ourselves into this mess? The answer lies with those yes-men of the Belfast Agreement. Mr Ken Maginnis claimed that he had achieved an outstanding success in getting the police issue on to the agenda — it was not there, but he got it on. Now, having got it on and having read the Patten Report, he tells us that he is totally dismayed because the RUC has been degraded, demeaned and denigrated by the Secretary of State.
That is interesting. Did the Secretary of State not say in the House of Commons that the security spokesman for the UUP was using rhetoric in the House and that his remarks were more hostile in public than those he made in private. In other words, he says one thing in public and another thing in private. That was an interesting confession by the Secretary of State.
Then Mr Trimble was asked about the RUC. He referred to the police controversy as
"a very difficult issue that is bound to cause problems."
"Many people feel — and I share the feelings myself — that we did not get the mixture just right yesterday."
What is he talking about? Whom does he think he is talking about? They "did not get the mixture just right". But he says that he will continue to work at it — put a little more salt into the wounds of those who are already hurting. Concerning the "mixture" that Mr Trimble says "we did not get just right yesterday", an RUC member whose legs were blown off in a booby-trap bomb said
"The dirty tramps. They paid no heed to our feelings, but then I always suspected they would get their way. It has been concession after concession after concession. It seems that the bomb and the bullet win every time."
We call this a peace process, but in reality what is it? It is a piece-by-piece process on the road to Dublin, a process that will destroy not only the United Kingdom but everything that is recognised as being good and decent in our society, such as the RUC and the RUCR.
We should not be surprised when Sir John Gorman tells us that the Ulster Unionists are going to take a stand for the RUC. That will be interesting. What about the stand they took for the Ulster Special Constabulary? What about the stand they took for the Ulster Defence Regiment? Is this the type of stand that is going to be taken for the RUC?
I heard others talking pious words today. It was interesting to hear Sinn Féin talking —indeed, the Member for Foyle spoke. What she did not tell us, when she said that the RUC must go, was that her son was sentenced to imprisonment for trying to murder an RUC man. The gun did not fire. Also, she did not say that her husband was a member of the UDR. We ought to be proud of the RUC. It is time for Ministers to do the decent thing and resign. The First Minister should give the lead — his resignation would really mean something.
A Chathaoirligh, I see they are calling for resignations again.
It is no surprise that the DUP is defending the RUC — it is a Unionist force and has been since partition. It was put in as an armed political force to represent Unionism and to be used against Nationalists and Republicans. There is a myth — and the DUP and other Unionists are in denial of this — that the RUC served the whole community in the North. I would like to know where that myth came from. From the inception of partition the make-up has been 90% Protestant.
There is another myth which says that Catholics were intimidated out of the RUC, or were intimidated from joining it. Again, I refer to the statistics. Well before the last 30 years that people keep referring to, the figures were very consistent. From the inception of this statelet the make-up of the RUC has been 90% Protestant.
It used emergency laws during the whole of that time. Incidentally, one of the South African Presidents, before the end of apartheid, said that he would give up all of his past laws, and emergency law, for one clause in the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act. That is the type of emergency law and paramilitary policing that we have been faced with over the past 80 years.
The DUP and the Ulster Unionists deny this. They have never even admitted doing anything wrong politically, never mind the RUC. They have come through a series of organisations including the RUC Reserve and the UDR, all of which were sectarian in their make-up. They were looked upon by Nationalists — and there is a lot of evidence to support this view — as a very political police force over that time. The DUP and Ulster Unionists are in denial because they do not think that anything ever went wrong here, so why should they want the RUC done away with?
The RUC has been criticised and condemned by many reputable human rights groups, and we cannot ignore that. Whatever I may say about it, why ignore those groups? They are the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Committee on Torture, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, the European Parliament’s International Relations Committee, the International Relations Committee of the US Congress and Amnesty International, among others.
There is a strong desire, as shown by the Good Friday Agreement, for a real policing service that will serve the whole community. That desire — and I have listened to the DUP — is greater in the Nationalist heartland because they are the people who have suffered its lack. The desire for a policing service is very genuine and important. It was an essential part of the Good Friday Agreement that we all signed up to — except the DUP, of course. The litmus test for any police service that may emerge lies not with me or with anybody sitting on these Benches. The litmus test is whether young people in Ardoyne, or Ballymurphy, or the Bogside, or South Armagh believe that this is a policing service that they can join.
Why did Catholic youth not join the RUC? Because the combined force of the RUC and the British Army has been directly involved in 360 deaths, half of them civilians. No member of the RUC has ever been convicted of murder in all that time.
There is evidence of collusion between the RUC and Loyalist death squads, and the sheer volume of personal details that have been released can only be guessed at. We have documentation that proves collusion through a number of informers and agents such as Brian Nelson, who is probably the best-known of them. The Pat Finucane killing; the Robert Hamill killing; and the Rosemary Nelson killing all show the depth and extent of the collusion. The famous wall of silence within the RUC in the face of belated inquiries shows again what type of organisation it has been and why Catholics do not join it.
There are all sorts of reasons why the RUC is not acceptable and why Nationalists should not join it. Through the Stalker and Sampson inquiries we learned that the RUC was trained by the SAS.
Sinn Féin will wait for the legislation. Let me finally say this. The policing service is not a concession to anyone. Either we need a policing service or we do not. Let us have a proper policing service.
Many of the original 175 Patten Report proposals make sense. That is not surprising, since roughly 160 of them were anticipated by previous studies, such as the RUC’s own fundamental review. However, there are two basic flaws in both the Patten Report and the Secretary of State’s recent statement.
First, there is the assertion that the proposals follow on from the terms of the Belfast Agreement. Secondly, there is the idea that the changes now proposed are either necessary or sufficient to engineer the wider community acceptance of policing that all of us here wish for.
I will deal initially with the relationship between the Belfast Agreement and the Patten Report. It has been asserted that there is a strong link between the two, but the Belfast Agreement simply laid down the terms of reference for the Commission. The final recommendations do not follow inexorably or necessarily from the agreement.
In this debate we have witnessed an unholy alliance between Chris Patten — who has argued that the Belfast Agreement is the cover, as it were, for his recommendations — and those people who represent the "No" side of Unionism and who will use the Patten and Mandelson reforms as further ammunition to hurl against the structure of the Belfast Agreement. All this is rank hypocrisy from members of a party who have often hurled verbal abuse, or worse, against the same RUC whose best defenders they now claim to be. I noted earlier the strong rhetoric from the Minister for Social Development, among others, but if the DUP really felt so strongly about the Mandelson statement, why were its MPs not present in the Commons when he made it? The image of the DUP as the guardian of the future of the RUC brings to mind the idea of Charles Manson endorsing Barnardo’s.
Secondly, on the acceptability of the police, my argument is that the proposals from Patten and the statement by the Secretary of State are not logical, given the evidence in the Patten Commission’s report. I quote from paragraph 3·14. In a random sample survey
"77% of Protestants and 69% of Catholics expressed overall satisfaction with the way they had been treated" by the police.
Paragraph 3.11 states that 70% of Catholics in the same survey
"cited intimidation ... as the main reason why Catholics were deterred from entering the police".
Sadly, that spirit of intimidation still stalks the land, as in Carrickmore. I would argue, in the light of such evidence coming directly from Patten, that it is misguided to make suggestions about a change of name and badge. The Mandelson changes will, if implemented, massively alienate the Unionist section of the population, yet they will never be enough to win over those who have the Republicans’ objection to the police. For such persons the real objection to the RUC is not its name, oath, or human rights record —
Sorry, I am running out of time.
The fundamental objection is that the RUC is involved in policing United Kingdom law within a part of the United Kingdom. The Belfast Agreement has confirmed Northern Ireland’s position as part of the United Kingdom, subject to the consent principle. Given this, the Patten/Mandelsonian tinkering with the RUC is worse than gratuitous appeasement — it is futile appeasement.
Let us imagine that the name "Royal" really is the problem. In due course will there be campaigns against the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Royal Mail, Royal & Sun Alliance, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the five Royal schools in the Province?
When a political party puts down a motion for debate it is assumed that all of its members feel sincerely about it. It was interesting to note that for most of the morning there were no more than three members of the DUP present in the Chamber. Once again it could be claimed that the RUC is being used and abused for political purposes. But what is new? Reference was made to the fact that the first policeman to die in the present troubles was murdered by Loyalists. In the days before his death, the Paisley bandwagon was screaming "sell-out" following the publication of the Hunt report, which the Rev Dr William McCrea referred to earlier. That policeman died in a riot that followed a rally organised by that same party. It made the balls, and when its members went home safely to their homes the police were left to take the brunt as the balls were thrown at them.
The gardaí were criticised this morning, and that merits comment. May I remind the same politicians that while they were safely in their beds and protected by the RUC in the North, members of the gardaí were manning police stations along the border and protecting people on both sides of it.
Many of them were far away from their families for long periods, working in conditions that were far from favourable. Indeed, the Republic spent more per head of population on border security than the British. Surely Peter Robinson must bear testament to that tight security, given his little sortie to Clontibret.
Thirty years later and things have not changed much. In the last few years people have still been be wound up to hate by the same people who were responsible for the death of the first policeman.
In the absence of agreed political institutions it is impossible to have a police service which is broadly based. That is not just a Northern Ireland experience; it is the experience of countries in many parts of the world. It is therefore very worrying that people like John Taylor talk about a return to direct rule. That would be a disaster for the future of policing in the North — a disaster for the North.
Never again must the police service be dependent on people who pretend that they support it and then say the most outrageous things about it when it does not follow their narrow, bigoted, sectarian views.
After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement there was the usual cry of "Sell-out" by the DUP. And just as in the 1969 case, to which I referred earlier, the paramilitaries responded with a drilling session on a beach in Portrush. The reaction of the DUP leader was interesting. Did he send for the RUC? Certainly not. He went to the beach and had his photograph taken with the paramilitaries. He predicted more deaths, and he called the RUC prostitutes, claiming that its members were now being paid in punts. His predictions about the deaths were deadly accurate — Castlerock, Greysteel and Loughinisland pay tribute to this. No police force should have to rely on that type of support.
At a recent rally in Coleraine, organised by the DUP, 350 chairs were put out to enable people to hear how Dr Paisley and Mr Robinson were going to save the force. People will be relieved to know that most of the seats remained empty, for there is a maturity in Northern Ireland that understands that the police service cannot be the property of any political party and, most certainly, not the property of those parties that are extreme.
For the first time we have an opportunity to take policing out of the political arena where its friends were highly unreliable and unrepresentative of the whole community. The new police service must not be vulnerable to extreme elements, irrespective of where they come from. We should never again have rotten apples in the service, who, by their actions, or lack of actions, bring disgrace to it, and the new political structure will prevent that from happening.
The Patten Report’s recommendations point the way forward. For the sake of the men and women who serve in the police and for the sake of the community who will depend on them, I hope that we can move swiftly to a new era. I hope that no more people will have to die either in uniform or out of uniform.
Policing was sadly abused in the past, and there are still people who care nothing for the harm and hurt caused, not only to the people in the police, but also to the people in the two communities whom they were charged to serve. Now is the time to move on. The Patten Report is not perfect. It can be improved upon, but that can only be possible when each individual sees the police, not as my police or your police, but as our police.
I have listened with interest to the speeches. My party has been accused of being negative, but I have never heard anything more negative or condemnatory than what has come from the SDLP Benches. I have referred to the SDLP as the Fairy Liquid party — it is green, slippery and soapy, but the scum has gone down the sink. However, by its association with and support for those who have murdered and created anarchy, it has got itself to the point where it can no longer differentiate between right and wrong. Its members are unable to condemn or distance themselves from the Provos; rather, they have piggybacked on their success. I have seen this night after night in various council chambers.
A section of this community declared from the word go that it would not accept Northern Ireland, that it would not accept anything that pertained to keeping Northern Ireland British. Yesterday Gerry Adams reminded us very forcibly of this stance in his speech at Milltown when he said that the Republican agenda or focus remains the same. Its aims and determinations have not altered one whit. People talk about this wonderful agreement and this great shrine of peace, but Sinn Féin has never been party to it. It has deliberately pretended to support it, but peace is just another conveyor belt towards Republican goals. To be fair to Sinn Féin, it has been more honest about its intentions than its political neighbours in the SDLP.
There is much hypocrisy about not accepting the police, but let me give one example. In Pomeroy, which is in the constituency next to mine, there was a large anti-RUC meeting, and on the way home from it, two of its very staunch supporters had an accident on the Inishative Road. They could not agree on who was right and who was wrong. How did they settle it? They sent for the RUC. So much for those who do not accept the RUC.
We hear a great deal of hypocrisy from members of the SDLP, some of whom sit on the Police Liaison Committee. They would be the first to say "No, I am not here" or "I am wearing another cap", but they are back-door SDLP members of the Police Liaison Committee. The truth will come out.
Take the example of the foot soldiers who are not content just to wait for the peace process to deliver the goods. There is an idea around that these foot soldiers can walk on a headmaster’s lawn and tell him that he cannot have a guest in his school, or that they can walk into a meeting and threaten and intimidate. Let us look at the civil rights issue here. There is no right to free association.
Then take the case of the parents of the policeman in Melmount in Strabane who had to be moved out on Friday night because of threats and intimidation.
When I look around the countryside in my constituency, I see 97 tombstones, put there by people whose business was anarchy and murder, people who, in their hearts and minds, were always determined to bring anarchy to this country. There was only one line of defence, and that was the RUC. The RUC defended the majority of people — both the Catholic and the Protestant communities — and we have a responsibility to defend those who defended us.
As some Members know, I served as a part-time reserve constable in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 14 years, and I was proud to do so. Those of us who served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary did so to the best of our ability, no matter what our politics, religion or views, because it was an honour to serve the community.
I have a piece of information for Gerry Kelly. While patrolling in Stewartstown, Coagh, Ardboe and Coalisland in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I found that Nationalists, Unionists, Loyalists and even Republicans were very willing to avail of the RUC’s services. Even though we were shot at and bombed, we tried to help, no matter how trivial the problem, and we did so in an impartial and fair way.
I listened to comments from Sinn Féin Members today — they made much of the RUC’s failings. No one pretends that any police force is perfect, but let us not forget the reality. Sinn Féin’s sister organisation — the IRA — is responsible for 40 times the deaths that the RUC is responsible for, and every one of those RUC killings has been subject to proper investigation. Most were of terrorists on active service. What investigations have there been of IRA killings? The Republican movement demands change and wants to move the process forward, but it has not changed.
Does the Sinn Féin Member for Foyle not think that she should temper her comments about the 51 deaths that the RUC has been responsible for, bearing in mind that the IRA has killed more than 275 RUC men and women over the last 30 years? Is it not time that the Republican movement addressed not only the complete immorality of its campaign, but also its unbalanced nature? How can this overkill be justified, let alone the taking of one human life?
I would like to believe that Sinn Féin is coming into line and will support law and order in Northern Ireland. However, having listened to remarks from its Members today, I can only conclude that they seek not so much a police force as a weakened security apparatus, which will be vulnerable to some future Republican terrorist campaign when their campaign for a united Ireland fails.
That is my analysis, so I was totally disgusted with the UK Government when, having acknowledged the excellent achievements of the RUC with the award of the George Cross, they proceeded to dishonour the members of the RUC, including those thousands of injured members and, most of all, the widows and widowers of those who were killed. Instead of supporting the RUC, the Government are going so far as to remove the name of this fine force and the badge which so well represents the two traditions. It looks as though the RUC is going the same way as the Ulster Special Constabulary and the UDR.
Change is inevitable in view of a changing and peaceful Northern Ireland, but this change must take place naturally and in a way which takes into account the evolving security situation. Instead of this, the Government have dishonoured themselves by continuing along the road of appeasement. They have bowed down to the threat from terrorists who may in future emerge from the Republican movement, and it is a shame and a disgrace that the Nationalist SDLP has chosen to support this Republican position.
I support the motion.
The Government’s response to the Patten Report on policing is welcomed as one essential element of the complex series of processes which must be implemented together if we are to achieve the peaceful and just society which all but the most perverted long for.
Good policing and the proper administration of justice are most important in any society. How much more important are they then in a society with a sorry history of division, sectarianism and violence? It is because of that history that change is imperative and urgent. It is inevitable that it will give rise to strong emotions, and it is irresponsible and dangerous to heighten or play on those emotions either to oppose change or to demand the impossible or the unattainable.
It is not surprising that so much opposition and so many demands relate to symbols and titles and an ethos that inevitably reflect the values of those who held power in Northern Ireland from its inception. They were people whose values found expression in the slogans "A Protestant Government for a Protestant people" and "Not an inch.". They needed institutions of government — a police force in particular — to help them sustain that power. The cost was the alienation of a high proportion of the population and the creation of a gulf between the police and many of those whom they were meant to serve.
A police force of necessity reflects the ethos of those who control the Government. This was as true with Nazi Germany’s Gestapo and Stalin’s KGB as it is in more enlightened and humane times, and even the most enlightened Administration, such as the one we are trying to create, must work diligently to ensure that its police service is such that it will
"enjoy widespread support from, and is seen to be an integral part of, the community as a whole".
In a statement on 19 January 2000 the Taoiseach said
"It is in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland that the police service be able to function fully and freely in all areas and across all communities".
People from both traditions want to be able to give their unqualified support to a police service which is unequivocally of and for the whole community. They want the law to be upheld in an atmosphere of normality and security, and policemen and policewomen to be made welcome in every home. Furthermore, a career in policing should be fully open to talented and committed people, irrespective of their political beliefs and identities.
It is a sad reflection on our society that, because those words were spoken by the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, they will be belittled and rejected by some people of influence in our community. It is even sadder that, had they been spoken by our own First Minister, those same people would call him a traitor and demand his resignation. However, do those words not describe something worth working and making sacrifices for? The SDLP believes that all reasonable people wish to live, and see their children grow up, in a community with such a police service.
We live today in the twilight of law and order in Northern Ireland. The publication of Patten’s opinions on the future of policing here have confirmed the very worst of which we had warned Official Unionism. We can now read in black and white the sordid intentions of the so-called independent commission to exterminate the RUC. We all know where John Taylor stood on these issues. He was the yes-no-yes-man. He was the man who made the 40-foot bargepole disappear in seconds. He is also one of those responsible for the Patten Commission’s being here today. He is one of those who voted for the agreement and gave it his endorsement.
Two things must be said about Patten’s opinions. First, the RUC, as it stands, commands respect and support from the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland — and that is cross-community support — and with no significant change in the terrorist threat it should not be reformed.
Secondly, as spawn of the Good Friday Agreement, Patten propagates its message, sacrificing the very principles of democratic society purely to appease the gunmen. When Patten seeks to create a police force which satisfies everyone, that includes the terrorists and the law-breakers. One need hardly be a brain surgeon to figure out that a force which satisfies the law-breakers would be anything but a force able to maintain the rule of law. The Patten Report is sodden with proposals which would neutralise the police’s efficiency, integrity, identity and ability to tackle violent terrorism effectively. From the very outset, it is quite clear that the basis upon which these proposals were made was not that of operational requirement or necessity. Rather, the basis was the need to make concessions to satisfy the desires of IRA/Sinn Féin and the wider pan-Nationalist agenda.
Patten’s report is founded upon the corruption of what is possibly one of the most respected and effective anti-terrorist police forces in the world. At this stage in the overall implementation of the Belfast Agreement, we have seen practically all IRA/Sinn Féin prisoners released from jail. The Maze prison should be resounding to the noise of incarcerated murderers and thugs. Instead, it lies empty. Its staff, who have seen the unrepentant spokesmen for fully armed terrorism walk unhindered into the Government of this country, their hands still dripping with the blood of 30 years of carnage, are redundant. We have a commitment to corrupt the judicial system.
An unprecedented level of cultural apartheid now exists, where the flag of this country, and all signs of British identity — and we saw this in Down Council last week — are being systematically removed and defiled while we have the violence continuing and the IRA rearming. When IRA members go to Florida it is not to visit Disneyworld or get a suntan but to buy guns. At the same time we see security bases closing constantly and troop levels decreasing. We are now witnessing the decommissioning of weapons belonging to the legitimate forces of law and order without any similar commitment from IRA/Sinn Féin.
The RUC has been most successful in strangling IRA activity in Northern Ireland, and consequently has acted as both first and last lines of defence for the UK mainland against Republican atrocities. Many of us were annoyed to see on television yesterday the large rally in West Belfast to commemorate a murderer who killed a Roman Catholic policeman a number of years ago. This flies in the face of many of the Province’s law-abiding people.
It is absolute madness in effect to disband the force which has protected this community over the past 30 years, preventing the expansion of the Republican control base and, ultimately, preventing the organisation from functioning successfully in Northern Ireland. This madness is illustrated by the fact that IRA/Sinn Féin continues to rearm, retrain and recruit, refusing to give any commitment to peaceful means or to constitutional and democratic principles. Should Patten be implemented, society will pay the price, and all those who supported the agreement and voted "Yes" to it will have to admit their responsibility.
Blair’s Administration and the NIO are quite prepared to sacrifice democracy and the rule of law in Northern Ireland to keep the bombs out of London. They are prepared not only to ignore and disregard the lives of those brave officers who have been brutally murdered and maimed while trying to maintain law and order but to insult their memory by paving the way for their murderers to become part of the new force. They have stated that police reforms are an essential part of the new democratic society in Northern Ireland, and under the Belfast Agreement they are not wrong. The agreement, as everyone knows, is a list of concessions aimed at silencing the Republican movement’s bombs in London. The findings of Patten’s Commission are an integral part of the agreement and could not be anything but pro-Republican.
I support the amendment proposed by my party Colleagues which acknowledges the degree of hurt among police officers and their families over the Patten reforms. Unionist spokesmen have reflected that hurt today, perhaps with a greater or lesser degree of genuine apprehension.
With regard to one of the more than 170 recommendations of Patten, I agree with Mr Dodds on the opposition to proposed recruitment quotas. However, it is not so much a case of my agreeing with Mr Dodds as of Mr Dodds’s agreeing with me, since the initial response from the DUP and other Unionists seems to be almost totally based on the issues of symbolism — the badge and the name. For Alliance, the focus of our consideration of Patten has always been on the need for an effective police service for all the people of Northern Ireland in a new and peaceful society.
In this respect it is regrettable that leaders of Nationalism have said nothing on the issue of quotas. I was disappointed to hear this morning that the Catholic bishops had issued a statement calling for what one might term accelerated Catholic recruitment into the new police service. If that means that they are encouraging members of their flock to join the police service it is welcome, but to suggest that we could achieve a 30% Catholic balance in three to five years seems to me to require direct discrimination, and that would risk losing the experience and expertise in ordinary policing within the RUC.
I want to see a fully representative police service, inclusive of every section of this society — every geographical section, both genders and all ethnic groups, and not just the two main religions. I want to see a professional police service in which every member is appointed on merit and not through some form of quota. That is the only way to ensure that people gain respect for being professional police officers rather than Catholic or Protestant policemen or — and this is another minority — policewomen.
It has already been said that quotas are illegal under fair employment law in Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the EU. That is one reason to oppose them. It is also quite clear that quotas are ineffective. They are intended by Patten to apply at the final appointment stage, but it has never been a problem to draw 50:50 from a pool of qualified applicants. The problem is to attract a balance in the applicants in the first place. That is another reason to oppose quotas.
If the reform is out to succeed, there is no need for quotas. A career in the police service should be an attractive option to well-qualified young men and women, whatever their community background. If that happens, there will be balance in applications because the population proportions in the age group from which recruits are largely drawn are almost even between Protestants and Catholics. And 10% decline such categorisation.
Quotas would create major problems for the officers of the service and under employment law. The Government must think again. The concerns about quotas and local policing boards which Sean Neeson mentioned are not a reason for rejecting Patten overall, but they do give us a reason for seeking amendments to his proposals.
There is a real need for policing to be transformed in style from the armed force that has been necessary for 30 years to a first-class community police service. Patten has set out how that can and should be done, building on the existing force. The police and the Police Authority are already implementing many of Patten’s proposals.
Fundamentally, what we should all be concerned about is the ethos, and Patten envisages a single unified police service for the whole of Northern Ireland. This is not about Catholics policing Catholics or Protestants policing Protestants. It is not even about a two-tier service or a regional force arrangement, which would amount to the same thing.
We must seek to produce the kind of unified service which will meet the needs of all of us in the future. Patten also stresses the need for a strong human rights ethos to be prominent in future policing. That contrasts with the minimal role that human rights have in police training at present. That is essential for this society and for the service itself. It would also be a defence against some of the more ludicrous allegations about paramilitary involvement in the police in the future.
There is every reason for welcoming this emphasis on human rights in training, in staff appraisal and in the monitoring role of the new policing board. Although the Alliance Party will wish to see amendments to some of the proposals which are being made, the report does provide an opportunity for new beginnings in policing, and there is every reason for giving the proposals broad support in the community and in the Assembly.
I support the motion in the names of Mr Peter Robinson and Mr Nigel Dodds. We have the most professional police force in the world, and it is widely recognised as such. I would remind John Dallat of the SDLP, who mocked the supposedly small attendance at the rally, that over 400,000 signatures opposing the destruction of the RUC were handed into 10 Downing Street.
The reward for the more than 300 RUC officers, who made the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives to save others, is the destruction of the RUC. Over 9,000 RUC officers have been injured and maimed at the hands of those whom the Government are now going to untold lengths to appease. It is appalling that representatives of fully armed terrorist organisations will be in control of policing through the new policing board.
The proposal to abandon the proud name and insignia of the RUC is grossly insulting to most people in Northern Ireland. It dishonours those who have served and died so bravely over the years, bearing that name and wearing that insignia. Yet it is clear that such changes will have very little bearing on the attitude of the minority community to the police.
Roman Catholics have not joined the RUC in greater numbers because of intimidation by the IRA. Patten’s ban on the flying of the national flag on police buildings is disgraceful. The proposal that recruitment should be based, not on the "merit" principle, but on the filling of sectarian quotas, runs counter to current fair employment legislation. The abolition of the full-time Reserve is totally misconceived.
Most people in Northern Ireland are deeply angered by proposals to emasculate and destroy the RUC when terrorist organisations remain intact and fully armed.
Furthermore, at a time when the Chief Constable is warning of the seriousness of the terrorist threat, it is madness to be considering a reduction in the capabilities and resources of the RUC. The thoughts and sympathy of my party and myself are with the families of the RUC officers who, in defence of law and order, were murdered and maimed by terrorists. The Patten Report is a gratuitous insult to the professional integrity and operational efficiency of the RUC in its defence of the citizens of Northern Ireland over the years of terrorism. The Patten Report, if implemented, would achieve in a matter of months what Sinn Féin/IRA failed to achieve in 30 years — the destruction of the RUC. If the RUC means anything to the Ulster Unionist Party its leadership should resign from the Executive in protest at the actions of the Secretary of State.
The ultimate responsibility for the report rests with Mr Trimble who negotiated the terms of reference for the Patten Commission which determined the outcome of the report. The line being put out that plans were being made before the agreement was made will not wash. The finger of blame is pointed at the Ulster Unionist Party, and hundreds are phoning Glengall Street on a daily basis.
I have from its website today the Ulster Unionist Party’s security policy:
"The Ulster Unionist Party has a greater degree of experience and understanding of policing in Northern Ireland than any other United Kingdom party.
While it continues to be our primary responsibility to ensure that Government remains vigilant and ready to deal with all residual terrorism, it is equally important to guarantee the integrity of the Royal Ulster Constabulary during the period which will, we hope, bring our society along the road to peace."
The Ulster Unionist Party has failed. I quote from its referendum leaflet of May 1998:
"The RUC Has Been Saved.
Thanks to the UUP the section of the agreement was rewritten with recognition now given to the RUC with authority delegated as the Chief Constable should decide within a unitary structure. The RUC’s position has not been negotiated in the Talks and the Commission in the Agreement looks towards the adjustments which would naturally arise if terrorism ends".
I challenge anybody in the Ulster Unionist Party to say to me how — to use their words — "the RUC has been saved".
The Ulster Unionist Party has failed the Unionist people miserably. The empty words of condemnation of the report from Mr Trimble will ring hollow in the ears of the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland unless they are matched by his immediate withdrawal of support for the Belfast Agreement. The implementation of the agreement, in combination with the Patten Report, puts Sinn Féin/IRA in government without IRA decommissioning and places Sinn Féin/IRA at the centre of policing in Northern Ireland.
Let us look at the Alliance Party’s amendment. It is typical Alliance waffle — all things to all people. The party’s ink is on the destruction of the RUC. That cannot be denied. Sean Neeson talks of the pain and the hurt, yet his party on Belfast City Council refused last September to allow the mother of Const David Johnston, murdered by the IRA in 1997, to lay a wreath on behalf of her murdered son and all the others who made the supreme sacrifice.
I support the motion.
I support the motion. If implemented, the recommendations outlined by the Secretary of State last week will not only make justice in this Province a mere semblance of law and order but will render worthless the supreme sacrifice made by those members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who gave their lives to defend law-abiding people against IRA and Loyalist terror. It stands to reason that the RUC and its Reserve, prime targets of terrorists during the so-called war, would remain so during the farcical peace process.
The RUC is internationally renowned for its intelligence service and has successfully defended this Province against terrorism and, in effect, Fascism for many years. The terrorist organisations found it impossible to defeat the RUC by butchery, torture and the most callous murders and intimidation. The Government, through Patten, have delivered the victory to them by concession and appeasement. Those on the other side of the House should remember that they did not earn the victory or defeat the RUC — they have gained that victory through a pay-off.
The RUC, in defence of democracy, has borne the brunt of those who would eradicate democracy, yet how ironic it is that it should be democracy that has signed, sealed and delivered its fate. Those Unionists who voted "Yes" would not be told or warned. They bolstered each other and convinced themselves that they could not be out-manoeuvred, that the Government would not let them down by dismantling or reforming the RUC too much. Indeed, they even boasted of being the saviours of the police. They should take to heart this harsh lesson, instead of trusting terrorists and those who seek to appease Republicanism. They should stand firm on Unionism and defend their Unionist principles, or at least those precious few that they still have left, and not put their country and its laws up for negotiation.
We will never know the true extent of lives saved by the RUC, either here or on the mainland. We must not forget the courage and bravery of its members, who every day face the prospect of death and whose families have long lived in fear of the unthinkable happening. We must never gloss over the pain suffered by those to whom the unthinkable did happen or ignore the traumas endured by those who witnessed the carnage — scenes that will remain forever in their memories.
So how are these brave officers honoured and thanked by society and the Government whom they have protected? They are insulted by the changing of the cherished and respected name of their force. They look on powerless as those they locked up are released and laugh in their faces. As the officers become further demoralised, in spite of reassurances to the contrary, they will indeed be forced to co-operate and work with those they suppose to be actively linked to terrorist organisations, since not all terrorists have been convicted. They — a legitimate force — lose their weapons and protection while the caches of illegal arms are enlarged by airmail. Worst of all, the RUC will be forced to answer to those who have murdered and maimed them and their colleagues and who have waged a relentless propaganda campaign of scurrilous lies aimed at discrediting the moral integrity of and slurring the name of a much respected constabulary.
It appears that this weak and spineless British Government is incapable of distinguishing between the two. It is time to desist from the serious folly of appeasing apologists for terror — those who pocket concession after concession and have no intention of giving anything in return. It is time to stop supporting everything which gives credence to this pathetic farce of a peace process, that has let law and order degenerate into a nonsensical game of defending murder.
It is time to recognise the real reasons for Roman Catholics’ reluctance to enlist in the RUC rather than change the RUC to allow unconvicted criminals to join and police Northern Ireland in the way they know best. Our community has been threatened enough. It does not deserve to have terrorists being legitimised and policing it.
I rise to support the motion. My Colleagues have outlined most of the flaws in the course of action that the Secretary of State proposes to take. My remarks are directed to the Secretary of State, and I trust that he will read a transcript of the debate. He might get a better feeling for the views of the people in Northern Ireland from that than from what he gets from officials in the Northern Ireland Office.
In his lengthy peroration Mr Dodds failed to address the most fundamental point that Westminster is sovereign. Was that because he is still in the time warp of the referendum campaign when the DUP assured us that the repeal of section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act would mean that Westminster was not sovereign? Westminster would not be able to reform the police force, contrary to the wishes of the majority of the population, if it were not a sovereign Parliament. Nobody knows this better than Mr Dodds and his Colleague Mr S Wilson, who told us this again and again in a debate in the Chamber on 9 November 1998, with a note of triumph in his voice.
No. This side of the House did not give way to my party, and in the short time available I will not be doing so.
It is both to the benefit and burden of Unionism that Westminster is sovereign. The Secretary of State needs to take into account that we will not know for some time whether the reformed police force he envisages, at some cost, will be as effective in upholding the law. It is therefore essential in framing the legislation that provision is made to regularly review the progress of the reform to see if the police are able to uphold the law satisfactorily.
Mr Neeson made a highly relevant point about the need to link the pace of police reform to the creation of a peaceful society. This was not evident in the Secretary of State’s statement last week. I hope he will review the matter. It is not just that this society needs to be free from actual violence; it needs to be free from the threat of violence.
If the Secretary of State wants to emphasise that the police are in charge of upholding the law, perhaps he would like to address himself to the law itself. It would send the right signal if Westminster — as criminal law in Northern Ireland is a reserved matter — were to introduce a mandatory 25-year jail sentence without remission for the possession of arms and explosives. That might provide an incentive for the move towards decommissioning.
In looking at the amendment, which has received very little attention in this debate, I welcome the fact that the SDLP is going to support it and that it will be giving its full support to the proposed reformed police service and will be encouraging people to join it. I hope the SDLP will take its views to the Roman Catholic clergy, who seem to have a rather more equivocal view on the matter.
We welcome any Roman Catholic recruits to the RUC. We look forward to their coming forward and trust that they will pass the selection procedures and go through training. However, it needs to be borne in mind that it takes time to train a police officer, and it takes time for a police officer to acquire the experience to make him effective. It is simply not practical to turn over a great number of personnel in a very short period.
In conclusion, Mrs Nelis suggested that the nightmare of the RUC must be a thing of the past. For nearly all of the people of Northern Ireland, except perhaps for those who support her party and the terrorist IRA, the nightmare we want to see ending is the nightmare of the 30 years of terrorism. I support the motion.
I am glad to have the opportunity to take part in the debate, although perhaps "debate" is too generous a word. As I listened to it, here and in my office, I got the distinct impression that very few people are really listening to what others are saying. Maybe that is because it is a debate about what is really going on between two brands of Unionism rather than about the Patten Report or policing. Therefore we get this internecine squabble instead of a debate.
However, there are points to be made. Some of these have been covered by my Colleagues earlier, but it does not do any harm to repeat some of them. I would like to emphasise one or two things, because it is an opportunity for the SDLP to show quite clearly that we have been in the forefront of arguing for fair, neutral and available services to all. We have argued for a form of government that is open to all and for a form of policing that goes along with it. We have been arguing for those things for many years, and eventually we are beginning to get that argument across to those who count. For so long there has been a lack of identification with the police force. No one in the Chamber can honestly say that this is not true. If Members do, they are missing the reality of the situation, which has been there for a long time.
We want to create a policing service that is wholeheartedly supported by all sections of the community. We see that as one of the most essential and valuable goals of the whole political process because the policing problem is a deep-seated political one which goes to the very heart of the political entity that is Northern Ireland. Our analysis has shown that this issue is very deep and fundamental to the whole political approach. Political and policing problems in Northern Ireland are intertwined and interlocked. One cannot be solved without the other. If we fail to solve one, it is our fear that the other will be incapable of resolution.
We are conscious of the need to create a system of policing which commands the support of Unionist and Nationalist communities for the first time. To be meaningful, that support must be more than the verbal declarations that often pass for policing reform. Support implies people from Nationalist and Unionist areas joining a police service with a sense of pride, not guilt, and without censure from a community. It means serving and protecting the community as an indigenous part of it and, in turn, being protected by the community.
It means that Nationalists as well as Unionists will be involved in policing in a way which has not been possible since Northern Ireland was created. For Nationalists it will, for the first time, be the granting of allegiance to a system of policing with which they can identify politically and ideologically. That is an important point. That will be a quantum leap for Nationalists, and I recognise that. That is why we support the Patten Report. We believe that the Patten Report provides that opportunity, and for that reason, we welcome Peter Mandelson’s recent statement.
As a result of the agreement, there is great expectancy amongst people that we will get a peaceful, acceptable and agreeable form of government. In tandem with that, there is a great expectancy that we will have whole systems to which we can give our allegiance, including the police service. If we are not able to deliver that, then I fear for the consequences with regard to getting all our political views and all our political processes together.
After four and a half hours of debate I still have a very substantial list of Members from a number of parties who wish to make contributions. Clearly, that is not possible. We also have to have the vote, and I have to assume that there will be a vote on the amendment as well as a vote on the substantive motion before 6.00 pm. The winding-up speeches for the amendment and the substantive motion also have to take place, and those who are winding up have to respond to some four and a half hours of debate. I therefore intend to call the Members who will be winding up on the amendment and on the substantive motion, with the intention of moving to the votes at 5.40 pm. This will give us approximately 10 minutes for each of the votes. This, I fear, will be very tight, so I must ask for your co-operation.
The one thing that has become clear from today’s debate is that there has been, and still is, a great deal of pain throughout society. The other thing that is equally clear and obvious is that no one section of the community has a monopoly on that hurt and pain. If we all recognise those facts, then this debate will have served a useful purpose.
Another word which came through from a number of Members was the word "anger". I feel that the anger is often more painful than the injury that caused it in the first place, and I ask Members to take account of this fact.
It has to be recognised that the Patten Report has caused, in some of its recommendations, a degree of pain and hurt throughout society. However, it equally has to be recognised that there is a Patten Report because of this society’s past failures in finding an acceptable and democratic method by which to govern Northern Ireland. The point must be made that the old mentality of "Not an inch" or "No change" is exactly what got us into the mess in which we found ourselves.
Policing has been contentious, by and large, because the whole essence of politics in Northern Ireland has been contentious.
The consent principle, which is surely the effective cornerstone for policing in any democracy, has been absent. The Patten Report says that in contested space the role of those charged with keeping the peace has itself been contested.
Having listened to what has been said, I have no doubt that the areas that have caused the greatest hurt and pain, tugging hard at the heartstrings and at the emotions, are those that deal with the name and the badge. I can empathise with those who have lost relatives or friends because they were members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I can understand the feelings of almost betrayal felt by those who have lost limbs or whose senses have suffered some terrible injury because they wore the badge and the uniform. Yes, there has been a feeling of hurt and, yes, there are memories. People can take anything else away, but they can never take away those memories. I believe that those memories, those sacrifices can be enriched and enhanced.
That would happen if all the leaders in this society did their utmost to ensure that the pain was not in vain, that the pain of some could be translated into gain for the entire community. The gain to which I refer would be a police service that has the consent of the entire community, where the police and the public work in partnership. Why? Because policing, in my opinion, is too important a job to be left to the police alone.
This can and will be achieved, not by quotas but by leadership, not by the hypocritical rantings of politicians who jump to the defence of the badge and the name of the RUC because they consider it politically expedient. Leaders who in the past, by their words and actions, physically and verbally abused the person, the individual, the man or woman who was wearing that badge and uniform simply because those individuals did not comply with their political or other agenda.
There is hurt and there is pain, but there is also the stench of hypocrisy from what I would refer to as the whited sepulchres masquerading as defenders of the police. There is also the stench of hypocrisy from those who condemn the police for, for example, alleged brutality. Leadership today is the vital catalyst that will change the pain into gain. That leadership must come from right across the entire spectrum of the community, but in a particular way. It must be seen to come from those who are regarded as the leaders and as the opinion-formers in the Catholic, Nationalist and Republican sections of the community.
The composition of the police force has been disproportionately Protestant and Unionist. This imbalance, for which there are many reasons, can only be addressed by more recruits from what is euphemistically referred to as "the other side". The type of leadership that I am calling for today can only enhance the chances of that happening, and happening quickly. Those who have been in the vanguard in calling for change have now got to put up or shut up. It is not good enough to advocate a wait-and-see policy. It is time for active, not passive, leadership.
The GAA, for example, should come off the fence and encourage its supporters and activists to enlist now. It can do that by changing rule 21. It can call a special meeting of its organisation, if necessary, to enable that to happen quickly. Republicans, who could show Oliver Twist a thing or two about asking for more, should embrace the sentiments in the motto of the city of Belfast — "Pro tanto quid retribuamus" — and ask "For so much, what return can we make to this society?"
They should stop their begrudging, stop their whingeing. It is time for generosity of spirit. It is time for give and take, not just take. It is time for the entire community to help the police emerge from their metamorphosis strengthened and improved, having the support not just of part of this community, but rather the confidence and support of the entire community. I call on the House to take the first step now.
There are two certainties. One is that the police are not going to be disbanded; the other is that the Patten Report is not going to be scrapped. Let us deal with the realities. Let us support this amendment and send out a message of hope rather than the negative messages of "No movement" and "Not an inch" that are the essence of the motion. I appeal in particular to the Ulster Unionists, who have sat here this afternoon and had the stick dragged across their backs by the Democratic Unionists, to support the amendment. The changes they want can be brought about by changes in legislation. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I will not be deflected by the pious preaching of the holier-than-thou, whiter-than-white Alliance Party. It is sufficient to leave on record its view that a motion to safeguard and retain the Royal Ulster Constabulary is a negative motion. We will see what its electorate has to say about its judgement on that issue.
It was wise of my Colleague Mr Dodds, when he was asked to move the motion last week, to withdraw it in favour of a fuller debate. The House has benefited from that. On top of that, of course, the recent announcement by the Secretary of State has made this issue all the more urgent and topical. If the House had not addressed the issue at a time when everyone outside was addressing it, we would have looked very foolish indeed.
This is a deep wound for the pro-British, law-abiding community in Northern Ireland. It is a self-inflicted wound. Its derivation is very clear. It comes directly and unmistakably from the Belfast Agreement. That is unquestionable. Is it any wonder that Chris Patten should cry out in exasperation "What did they expect?"? When one looks at the section of the Belfast Agreement dealing with policing, and in particular at the terms of reference for the Patten Commission, what else could one have expected?
The terms of reference are clearly defined. Let anybody who suggests that the change of the RUC’s name and badge came as a bolt out of the blue tell me what was meant by the agreement that was signed. It stated that a new police force should be designed. It dealt with issues such as policing arrangements including composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols. What else could have been expected? Chris Patten went on to say
"I don’t say this provocatively, but it really does seem to me that we were given a very clear agenda, and I’m surprised that those who gave us that agenda did not understand what the consequences would be."
I take issue with him on only one aspect of his statement. They could not but have understood. They were told over and over and over again. They were told by all of my colleagues who were opposed to the Belfast Agreement, and this was one of the four key areas that we highlighted during the referendum campaign.
We told people very clearly that this would lead to the destruction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Many people may well ask themselves "What advice did our politicians give us during that campaign? We did not know that this was going to happen." The advice of the Ulster Unionist Party was that it would not happen. It wrongly analysed the issue, or else it sought to deceive the people. But then deceiving the people is an interesting phenomenon. I notice that the Secretary of State had something to say about that in the House of Commons to the Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Mr Maginnis. He said
"I am surprised that he chooses to say something different in public from what he has said to me in private."
The people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone — indeed, the people of Northern Ireland and, more particularly, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whom he is paid to represent — have a right to know what he was saying in private that is so different from what he is saying publicly.
The next day in ‘The Times’, Mathew Parris perhaps hit the nail on the head when he said
"You could feel Mr Mandelson’s anger rise. ‘I’m surprised he chooses to say these things’ he observed with cold fury. The punch which followed was hardly pulled, the implication inescapable: that behind closed doors together, Mr Maginnis had offered support to Mr Mandelson’s hopes for the RUC, but here, perhaps for show at home, he was making a display of opposition, speaking ‘differently in public from what he says in private’."
Mr Parris then observed
"Mr Maginnis looked gobsmacked, did not come back for more, and stayed gobsmacked for the rest of the session".
The people of Northern Ireland deserve an answer. What was the distinction between the private messages that the Ulster Unionist Party was giving to the Secretary of State about the acceptability of these proposals and what it was saying in public? And the synthetic anger of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Westminster fools no one. He could not have been surprised. He is at least an intelligent man. He must therefore have understood what he was signing up to, and he must have understood that this was the outworking of the agreement that he had reached.
With regard to the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, I note also the basic principle enshrined in the Government’s argument that this will be a factor in encouraging the Catholic and Nationalist community to join the new force. Not so, according to the Police Authority, and I put on record its views from its statement on this issue:
"Our view remains that the name is arguably one of the least significant factors deterring Catholics from joining the RUC. There is no reliable evidence to show that changing the name would produce any significant increase in recruits from the Catholic community and in the absence of this we have a real fear that the proposal will alienate a large section of the community without having any appreciable impact on the problem it is designed to solve".
I ask for support for this motion. It is of critical importance not just to the Royal Ulster Constabulary but also to this Province. My Colleague, in opening this debate, challenged the House with a question. He asked if anybody conceivably thought that if all of Nationalism was united against a proposal being considered by the Government, that the Government would proceed. Everyone knows the answer. However, during the debate Nationalists have not been prepared to face up to that question.
The reality is that if Nationalists had been opposed to it — and opposed as vociferously and strongly and passionately as Unionists are — it would never have seen the light of day. The Secretary of State would never have stood up in the House of Commons to advance it. Everyone knows that that is the case.
But it is the Unionists who are against it. Have we less right to be heard and to be taken into account than Nationalists? The Assembly by its vote today can give a clear message to the Secretary of State and to the Prime Minister. If every Unionst in the Chamber votes in favour of the motion, we are putting to the Government that they do not have the support of at least this section of the Unionist community. If the Belfast Agreement meant anything when it said that widespread support was required and that there had to be greater support for the new structure than the old, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister could not conceviably proceed with this proposal.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary has a proud record which deservedly won for the force the George Cross. No police force, especially not one serving in the circumstances that apply in Northern Ireland, could be stainless. No political party, no Church, no organisation anywhere in this Province can say that it has never made a mistake. Certainly no politician could say that. On balance, the role performed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary outshines many organisations and certainly outshines its detractors.
We must take into account not only the role that the force has performed under difficult circumstances but also its gallantry. We must remember the sacrifice by so many of its members — 302 of whom were killed defending our streets and our homes. Some 9,000 members of the RUC were maimed or mutilated. More than 400,000 people signed a petition to the Secretary of State in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In UK terms that represents between 15 million and 20 million people. In those circumstances would the Secretary of State have proceeded?
Let us make the vote a clear message from the Unionist Benches and let us see whether Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are prepared to listen to the Unionist community’s — I hope — united voice.
The Assembly divided: Ayes 28; Noes 65.
Alex Attwood, Eileen Bell, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Seamus Close, John Dallat, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Kieran McCarthy, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Eddie McGrady, Eugene McMenamin, Monica McWilliams, Sean Neeson, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, John Tierney.
Ian Adamson, Fraser Agnew, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Joan Carson, Wilson Clyde, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Bairbre de Brún, Nigel Dodds, Pat Doherty, Boyd Douglas, Reg Empey, Sam Foster, Oliver Gibson, John Gorman, William Hay, David Hilditch, Derek Hussey, Gardiner Kane, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Alex Maskey, Robert McCartney, David McClarty, William McCrea, Barry McElduff, Alan McFarland, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Francie Molloy, Maurice Morrow, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Mary Nelis, Dermot Nesbitt, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Sue Ramsey, Iris Robinson, Ken Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, George Savage, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Jim Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
Question accordingly negatived.
Main Question put.
The Assembly divided: Ayes 50; Noes 42.
Ian Adamson, Fraser Agnew, Billy Armstrong, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Tom Benson, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Joan Carson, Wilson Clyde, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Duncan Shipley Dalton, Ivan Davis, Nigel Dodds, Boyd Douglas, Sam Foster, Oliver Gibson, John Gorman, William Hay, David Hilditch, Derek Hussey, Gardiner Kane, Danny Kennedy, James Leslie, Robert McCartney, David McClarty, William McCrea, Alan McFarland, Maurice Morrow, Dermot Nesbitt, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Ken Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, George Savage, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Cedric Wilson, Jim Wilson, Sammy Wilson.
Alex Attwood, Eileen Bell, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, Seamus Close, John Dallat, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Pat Doherty, Mark Durkan, Sean Farren, John Fee, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, Gerry Kelly, John Kelly, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Seamus Mallon, Alex Maskey, Kieran McCarthy, Donovan McClelland, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Eddie McGrady, Martin McGuinness, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Sean Neeson, Mary Nelis, Danny O’Connor, Eamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, John Tierney.
Question accordingly agreed to.
This House rejects the Patten Commission’s report and calls upon the Secretary of State to reject proposals which would reward and elevate terrorists while demoralising and destroying the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whose members, both full-time and part-time, have diligently and with great distinction served the whole community.
The sitting was suspended at 6.10 pm.