No. 34. – “Policing in the New Millennium – Some Perspectives on the Patten Report”
Monday, 1 November 1999,
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Dr Martin Mansergh (Special Adviser to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern)
Alex Attwood, MLA(SDLP)
Bairbre de Brún, MLA (Sinn Féin)
James Leslie, MLA (UUP)
Chaired by Brendan O’Brien (Senior reporter, RTE)
Addresses of speakers
Questions and comments
Appendix A: Terms of Reference of Patten Commission
Appendix B: Mgr. Denis Faul – written contribution
Appendix C: Biographical notes on speakers
Editor’s note: When we were planning this talk on the Patten Report, we invited a range of speakers, including representatives of the Garda Siochána the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and the GAA, all of whom were unable to send speakers on the date in question. Msgr. Denis Faul was also invited and unable to come on the date, but he sent us a note of his intended contribution which we publish in full in Appendix A below.
Brendan O’Brien (Guest Chair): “Two years ago I chaired a meeting here and at that stage people were wondering will there ever be negotiations, will there ever be anything remotely close to a political settlement in Northern Ireland? Tonight I’ve come down from Belfast, where as a journalist I’ve been told virtually nothing about what’s going on in the inside – which in itself could be described as a positive thing because both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionist Party are negotiating face to face directly, for the first time since this peace process began. If George Mitchell has succeeded in anything, he has succeeded in that.
“From my perspective as a journalist looking at this over a period of over twenty years, that is quite monumental. Of course it comes in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten Report. Almost anything I could say about policing in Northern Ireland in relation to the Patten Report – as I’m sure any speaker here will attest to – is value-laden, judgmental, political, fraught with all kinds of difficulties. As a journalist I have the luxury of being able to speak about any of these subjects freely, in the sense that I don’t carry a political party behind me or anything like that. Political parties have to be much more sensitive to each other’s constituencies and their own constituencies. The only comment I would make about Patten before starting off the debate is just to point out the one simple but huge thing inside the Patten recommendations where it says that flags and emblems and badges alike should be entirely free from any association with either the British or the Irish states. In a sense that’s an enormously big statement and depending on where you come from politically you will have a point of view that will be absolutely central to the debate we’re going to have here tonight.
“I was speaking to somebody at the centre of the peace process a few years ago, long before the Good Friday Agreement was even thought of. This person, who was one of the brokers of the IRA ceasefires in 1994 – not a member of the IRA or the republican movement, one of the people on the outside – said that if you arrive at the situation where you have a police service that people in Catholic West Belfast can join, then you have a settlement worth it’s salt. Although that may be a comment coming from a particular side of the community it is a statement to contemplate as we debate policing in Northern Ireland which is a very divisive issue.
“Our first speaker tonight, Dr. Martin Mansergh, special adviser to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, is a man who has been at the absolute apex of this peace process, and if he would only tell us everything, it would be an enormous amount to tell! He resolutely refuses to do an interview with me or anyone like me and he holds within his head so many of the secrets of this peace process, probably from about 1990 or 1991 when the early beginnings of intermediaries and all the rest began to lead up to the IRA ceasefire and Downing Street Declaration and all the rest. ….
1. Dr. Martin Mansergh (special adviser to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern)
“Thank you chairman and ladies and gentlemen. I would like to begin by paying tribute to the contribution that the Meath Peace Group is making to public debate and information, and in particular their active and courageous chairperson Julitta Clancy.
“The Irish Government welcomed the Patten Report when it was published and see it as a fulfilment in letter and spirit of the Commission’s remit contained in the Agreement. We look forward to its full implementation. This does not necessarily mean an uncritical attitude to the whole report, but rather a judgment that, taken as a whole and if implemented in its entirety, the Report provides a basis for the fundamental reform of policing that was part of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The single most important element of that reform is to have a police force that is acceptable throughout the community and broadly representative of it.
“The Government here have avoided being overly prescriptive. Whilst the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Article 7 gave the Government a role in helping “to improve relations between the security forces and the community, with the object in particular of making the security process more readily accepted by the nationalist community” … the structure of policing has been mainly regarded as an internal or Strand 1 matter. Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein made detailed submissions to Patten. We have tended to press strongly the importance of tackling the problem, rather than particular detailed solutions, which, coming from the Irish Government, would for that reason alone probably not have been acceptable in some quarters.
“The purpose of the Commission headed by Chris Patten was to assemble as much expertise as possible, drawing on relevant international experience, with the aim of creating “a new police service that can draw on best practice from policing elsewhere”. Chris Patten himself could draw on experience from the Home Office and Hong Kong as well as his time as the Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office. There were experts from Canada and the USA, as well as a senior police officer from Britain and those familiar with conditions in Northern Ireland. The Government had faith in both the Chairman and members of the Commission that they would come up with imaginative and workable solutions to the problem. In no sense could the Report be described as an Establishment whitewash, but nor can it in any sense be described as showing the white flag to paramilitaries, as has been alleged in some quarters.
Criticisms of the Report: “Anyone who reads the Report will find it of a very high calibre. It comprehensively addresses the problems. That does not mean one necessarily has to agree with every single recommendation or line of argument. It has generally received a good press. Few people would accept that it deserved the very strong criticism levelled at it initially by the First Minister, but there would be some understanding here of the intense political difficulties that he has faced. It is more surprising that the Tory party should feel so rich in talent, that they can afford to repudiate out of hand the careful work of one of their most gifted and respected members, now an EU Commissioner.
“It is sad that many of the Conservative politicians who have worked constructively with successive Irish Governments in recent years are out of favour with their own party, though, except in Chris Patten’s case, mainly for reasons that have little to do with Ireland. The Daily Telegraph is running a campaign to preserve the RUC in its present form as part of its campaign against the Good Friday Agreement. Certain newspapers in Britain on a range of subjects are notorious for feeding characteristic prejudices and reactions, in a way that makes Britain’s relations with its neighbours more difficult. It is precisely this point that is made by Chris Patten writing in this morning’s London Times, when he criticises the third-rate debate on the EU in his own party. Some of the attacks on the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten Report going on in London are carried on in a similar vein.
“Michael Oatley, former intelligence officer, who conducted dialogue with the republican movement in the early 1990s, in an article in the Sunday Times yesterday criticised the picador approach of trying to provoke the republican movement, on the basis that “if significant barbs are thrust into its flanks, the animal will, eventually, with reluctance charge”. The same negative obstructive approach has been across the water applied to a number of central aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, criticism on Mo Mowlam’s judgment on the state of the ceasefire, prisoner releases, decommissioning and now the Patten Report.
Devising a democratic system of government in a divided community:
“In conflict resolution, and certainly in this instance, you cannot simply analyse the forces involved in terms of good and evil, identifying practicaly all the right as residing in one party or community, and situating practically all the evil in the paramilitary organisations, because the difficulties and problems went far wider than their often murderous activities. The problem has been to devise for the first time a democratic system of Government in a divided community, not a task made any easier by a quarter of a century of conflict. As Sean Lemass said in Queen’s University, Belfast on 23 October 1967 – in support of the notion of separating political and religious allegiance – unless a minority had a prospect of becoming a majority and acquiring the responsibilities of government, then democracy was meaningless. It has taken a long time to assemble from different political initiatives between the 1920s and the 1990s all the elements necessary to establish an agreed framework of legitimacy, not just for peacefully regulating constitutional differences, but for carrying on the day to day work of devolved Government in a way with which nearly everyone can identify.
Policing problem: “The essence of the policing problem is that up until now one community has to all intents and purposes policed the other, and indeed the police force itself has been in substantial measure a paramilitary police force (and of course in this context paramilitary can be perfectly legal). Its character differs from police forces in the rest of Britain and the rest of Ireland. 92% of the force is Protestant at the present time.
Serious vacuum: “Few Catholics and Nationalists have wanted to join the force, and of course potential recruits would have been deterred by the knowledge that some in their community would have seen joining as a betrayal, with all the consequences that that could entail. When one adds to that a situation where the RUC are not welcome in many areas, or only for very limited purposes, then there is a serious vacuum, which is filled by crude methods of social law enforcement that involves physical intimidation, injury or mutilation and occasionally death. While strong-arm methods may find a degree of acceptance in some parts of the community, it is very hard to see how anyone could accept that battering young people even as a last resort is any sort of acceptable solution to the problem in either the short or the long-term. Hence the urgency of finding conditions, in which ordinary policing will be widely accepted.
Context for implementation: “The Patten Report was conducted in the context of the Good Friday Agreement. While Patten argues that his Report stands on its own merits and should be implemented regardless of what happens to the institutional part of the Agreement – and we would agree with that – obviously the context for implementation would be far easier if the Agreement was working, and if it was clear beyond reasonable argument that, as far as the mainstream paramilitary organisations are concerned, the conflict is finished.
Redressing the imbalance: “The 50-50 recruitment, so as to begin redressing the imbalance, was, I remember, originally put forward by Ken Maginnis in early 1996, not necessarily with the wholehearted support of all members of his party. He was congratulated by Fianna Fail in Opposition at the time, when he was down in Bandon at a conference in early February 1996. Within ten years Catholics would come to constitute a third of the force, and within four years rise to 16-17%. The reasoning for it is that in the age cohort from which police officers would be recruited there is roughly a 50-50 community balance. The proposal can be criticised for the length of time it will take to achieve the required balance, and also on the grounds that it may not be entirely consistent with fair employment legislation as it stands. But at least it provides a credible strategy for change. This would take place at a time, when, assuming the security situation allows, the absolute number of police would be reduced from 8,500 to about 7,500 full-time officers, with the full-time reserve of 3,900 being dispensed with. Generous early retirement or severance packages are envisaged, including lump sum payments, and the reduction in numbers would be effected on a voluntary basis. As we know from our experiences in the late 1980s, voluntary redundancies can work well, provided the terms are attractive.
Membership of new police service: “Patten recommends that no sector of the community should be excluded from recruitment, provided they do not have paramilitary associations or convictions (but excluding minor rioting offences when young). Republicans have argued that no one should be excluded, but given that public confidence is vital, it is difficult to see how that would be created or maintained, if former paramilitaries were serving officers. The question of District Policing Partnership Boards should in contrast not be seen as controversial. If – to be specific – Republicans, say, are being asked to accept a new police force, it is reasonable that the police force should be accountable to the whole community not excluding them. Patten has reservations about membership by policemen of organisations such as the Orange Order or the Freemasons, and recommends that such membership should be transparent and registrable.
Continuity and change: “Probably the most difficult and sensitive issue is the balance struck between continuity and change. Political opinion ranged from those who wanted the RUC to be left fully intact, especially in view of the sacrifices made by those who died, to those who wanted it disbanded as a completely unacceptable and sectarian police force. The solution proposed will involve both continuity and fundamental change. The police will, we hope be carrying out their functions in an entirely different political context, one that emphasises partnership across the community. The objection has been made that there is nothing, short of successful criminal prosecution, to prevent “bad apples” from remaining within the force. That may in a formal sense be true, but whether all police officers who have been caught up in serious contoversy would wish to stay in the new circumstances and live with a changed ethos remains to be seen. The police ombudsmen should strengthen their address of abuse and to a degree deter it.
Suffering of RUC: “I believe it is wrong to demonise any section of the community or institutions in Northern Ireland. The RUC have suffered a lot, doing their duty to the community, and most of the victims were selected for their vulnerability, rather than their individual conduct as police officers. We in this State, while conscious of some very bad experiences in the Nationalist community – about which we have made vigorous representations in the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental conference – have also had to work very closely with the RUC, to prevent cross-border attacks being mounted in either direction. The safety of the people of this State and our duty under international law left us little choice in the matter. Even at times when Anglo-Irish relations were badly strained, that co-operation continued.
“A strong emotional case can be made on behalf of any side to a conflict. But such arguments are not always harnessed to preventing such tragedies from happening again. One can be sure that the British Government will want to provide properly for those who gave good service in dangerous times, and that in most cases policemen will be honoured in the community, if not necessarily all parts of it. But, whilst acknowledging the services of all those policemen who died doing their duty within the rule of law, it is necessary to move on and to take on the challenge of devising police structures fully acceptable to the whole community.
Symbolic changes: “The symbolic changes have to be seen in that context. To argue that the crown and harp and existing name should create no problems for law-abiding Nationalists – because it contains Irish as well as British symbols – is a bit like saying to Unionists that the tricolour should be acceptable to them, since it unites Orange and Green. The reality is that symbols, whatever their original purpose, are coloured by the reality that they stand for. If I understand the Chief Constable’s position, it is that the symbolic changes could be contemplated, if they would really help to bring about changed attitudes in the community to policing.
Human rights: “Obviously, we welcome the proposal that policing should in future be based on a strong human rights culture. The appointment of a Police Ombudsman is particularly an important step forward. The replacement of landrovers by police cars would make policing less intimidating. There is obvious merit in full records being kept of stops and searches. Patten also recommends the closure of Castlereagh, Gough Barracks and Strand Road. Moving towards a situation where the police should be routinely unarmed is obviously desirable, but depends on other factors. The Patten report is critical of the lack of research into acceptable alternatives to plastic bullets, and recommends that it be undertaken right away, especially improvements in the technology of water cannon. The defence forces in this jurisdiction have disposed of rubber bullets, although the same arguments about public disorder couldn’t be made here.
Cross-border co-operation: “More cross-border co-operation, including training exchanges and liaision would be welcome, as part of the total reform. An annual conference between the police services North and South to drive forward co-operation in areas of common concern is also an excellent idea. Modern policing in these islands began in Co.Tipperary in the barony of Middlethird around Cashel on 6 September 1814, at the initiative of the Chief Secretary, Sir Robert Peel. By coincidence or not, the Garda Training College, which is by implication praised by Patten, is situated in the same Co. Tipperary birthplace of the police – in Templemore – and it would be good to see members of the Northern Ireland Police Service having access to facilities there in addition to their own college when it is built. In fact there are at the moment 70 RUC officers in training in Templemore for participation in the UN mission to Kosova.
Conclusion: “After the institutions, police reform is arguably one of the most important strategic elements in the Good Friday Agreement. A good report is obviously just the first stage. Its comprehensive implementation, without dilution, but following consultation and with maximum cross-community consensus in support, will be very important in building trust and confidence in the future, and in filling the vacuum for normal law enforcement by a mainly civilian police force. The right person, who will have oversight of the changes from outside Britain and Ireland, will help ensure that change is carried through successfully. To sum up I think the Patten Report is very important and a good part of the success of the implementation of the Agreement will depend on the full and undiluted implementation of Patten. Thank you.”
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Thank you very much indeed, Dr. Mansergh. A comprehensive statement there with a good strong historical base. Dr. Mansergh used the statistic that 92 % of the RUC is Protestant and he gave some of the reasons for that. Part of the difficulty I find as a journalist in dealing with things like that, when things are very bad, when there’s a very heavy conflict going on, you don’t want to do things that make it worse and when things are good you don’t want to remind people of times when things were bad. But having reported on Northern Ireland over the last 25 years, one of the strongest things that comes through from the Protestant and Unionist community is that the reason there are so few Catholics, is because the IRA targeted Catholics, specifically because they were Catholics in order to dissuade them from joining the RUC, in order that the RUC would not be acceptable. Of course if you dig back into history – and Dr. Mansergh mentioned the 1920s – that is more or less the tactic that was used by the IRA in the 1919-21 period, successfully, in their terms. It was to drive the RIC out of the local barracks into the heavily fortified barracks and eventually into demoralisation and eventually into disbandment, and I think that forms part of the backdrop as to why the republican movement sought the disbandment of the RUC coming from that kind of historical perspective.
“Alex Attwood is our next speaker. Alex is a very hardened politician at this stage – you wouldn’t think it to look at his young features – but he comes from the coal-face of Belfast politics, probably the most brittle, driven section of politics in Western Europe. …..
2. Alex Attwood, MLA (SDLP):
“Brendan started by saying that when it comes to policing it is very hard not be judgmental and that is very true especially for people who live in the North. I think that will probably come across in all that we say. I addressed a conference about two months ago – it wasn’t about policing – and I passingly mentioned the word policing and a man stood up and said “when policing comes up on TV, I know you’re coming next… ” and I thought that was very revealing – that people in the North are so characterised by the attitudes they convey and portray in relation to policing. It made me think, that whilst I say a lot about policing, as all of us do, and while I may know some things about policing, I have, in some ways, a limited knowledge of the experience of the RUC. I’ve never been to the funeral of an RUC man, I’ve never been to the family of an RUC member who has been killed in the conflict over the last 30 years. So I can talk a lot about the Nationalist experience in policing but I can’t talk a lot about policing in general because I bring to this debate a lot of baggage, a lot of experience and it tends to be one-sided. Speaking on this issue I like to issue a health warning because it tends to be judgmental, it tends to be one-dimensional, and I think it is only fair to admit that at the beginning.
RUC courage and suffering: “I also want to admit and accept what Martin said about what the RUC has done over the last 30 years because, whilst I have fundamental conflict and difference with the RUC as an organisation, I don’t deny or diminish the bravery of members of the RUC, I don’t deny their courage over the last 30 years, I don’t deny the suffering that their organisation have endured over the last 30 years. I don’t deny that many of them will be in the future Northern Ireland Police Service. I don’t think we should be squeamish or uncomfortable about saying those things about an organisation in respect of which my community have fundamental and far-reaching differences.
Law, order and justice at centre of conflict resolution:
“I want to take policing in a slightly wider context before I talk about Patten. A few years ago a man called Frank Wright came and spoke to this peace group about politics in Ireland. He was an academic at Queen’s, he’s now dead. One of the things he said about national conflicts was, whilst they arise from many different causes, once national conflicts are fully developed they revolve around issues of law, order and justice. If you cast your mind back over the last thirty years, our conflict has very often been characterised by issues of law, order and justice. Week after week some issue of that nature has arisen which reveals and exposes the difference on our island and the nature of our national conflict, and because of that those who devised the Good Friday Agreement made sure issues of law, order and justice were, together with the institutional issues, at the core of the resolution of the conflict. … That’s why in the Good Friday Agreement we have the Human Rights Commission, an Equality Commission and that’s why we have a criminal justice review that’s meant to report sometime this month and that’s why we have the Patten Commission on policing. It was to put all those issues of law, order and justice at the centre of the resolution. And therefore Patten has to be seen in that totality; the human rights, equality, criminal justice, policing. That’s the way in my view that you have to look at the Patten Report itself.
All-Ireland human rights mechanisms: “If I could suggest one thing that an audience in the Republic could do to enhance issues of law, order and justice, it would be to enhance the Human Rights Commission that is being set up in the south as well, and in particular to work up and to work up quickly and vigorously all-Ireland human rights mechanisms to ensure that there’s a common chord on this island when it comes to protection of human rights.
Response to Patten Report: “I want to make a number of comments on Patten without going into particular detail, I’ll do that later. The first is that, even though there has been understandable anxiety and difference about some of Patten’s content, when you really look at it there has been a very moderate response to Patten. I think that in the North the reason that that has happened is because people knew that the resolution of the policing issue was a difficult one. People knew that Patten and the other commissioners had a very difficult task and they did their best. People knew that whilst they would disagree with this detail and that detail, the ball-park was a ball-park around which people could begin to play a game. People knew that tough decisions had to be made and Patten at least made the decisions and I think there’s a real cross between how the community reacted generally to Patten and how the community would react generally to going into government on fair terms. People know it’s difficult, people want decisions to be made, they’re prepared to swallow hard and live with the consequences.
“I think that those who are most involved in the negotiations in Castle Buildings over the next three or four days might draw some reassurance from how the community reacted to Patten to how the community might react about going into government.
Flaws and fault lines: “The second thing about Patten is that there are flaws and fault lines to Patten – and we’ll hear from James [Leslie] later on about the Unionist perception on flaws and fault lines – and there is also within the nationalist and broader constituency because Patten does not fully and properly address issues such as emergency laws, plastic bullets, or a time frame for the correct balance for the new NI police-service and there are a number of other issues. We will continue to argue at every opportunity using every proper mechanism for those fault lines to be corrected and we believe that in time they will be corrected.
Need for public debate: “But having said that nobody should diminish that within Patten there is a base-line. Some want to negotiate up and some want to negotiate down from what Patten says but it is a base-line around which we can create a police service that will attract and sustain the allegiance and support of all which .. was accepted by the people in this island when they endorsed the Good Friday Agreement. What is crucial is that people recognise that and begin to fully engage in the policing debate in order to ensure that policing opportunity materialises and goes to fruition. This is not a time to sit on your hands, this is not a time to wait and see. This is a time to engage in debate and a debate needs to be engaged in.
Institutional resistance: “The reason, among other reasons, that it has to be engaged in is that there is immense resistance at an institutional level to Patten and a resistance that worries many of us greatly. T.D. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, made a number of interesting comments about the nature of institutional life, one of which was that when the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took over, and remade an image of the new world in that of the old. They thanked us kindly and made their peace. There are old men in the RUC, in the Northern Ireland Office and the Policing Authority who intend to take Patten from us and remake it in the image of the old world, and that in order to pick those who have that intention, and that’s not everybody in the RUC, that’s not everybody in the AIO, although it is most people in the Police Authority; in order to fix that resistance it requires those who recognise that Patten is a base-line, it requires those to begin to engage in debate. There are immense resources who intend to minimise, cherry-pick and penny-pinch over Patten. In the Northern Ireland Office, 35 people are working on Patten, the Police Authority has 600 employees and the RUC have 28 police-officers and a number of technical people working on it. Unless we begin to argue fully with the implementation of Patten, then people will begin to remake it in the image of something that it wasn’t intended to be and there’s responsibility on everyone to not sit on their hands and to engage in debate.
Full implementation of Patten: “I agree with what Martin says that Patten has to be implemented in its totality and in its integrity, and for us that means three things. It means that Patten is implemented to the maximum of its interpretation, it means that there is no cherry-picking when it comes to any one or other of the proposals in the Patten document and there is no penny-pinching – that Patten in terms of its costs has to be accepted by the British Exchequer and implemented in the quickest possible time.
Maximum interpretation of Patten proposals: “What do I mean when I say that Patten has to be maximised not minimised? It means that there has to be in substantial part, a legislative basis for the Patten proposals. It means, for example, that the human rights proposals which is the opening chapter of the Patten Report and which Patten consistently says is the core of the report, have to be in statute, have to be maximised, have to include UN standards and should not be some minimum standards set by an association of police constables in Britain. And that’s only one example of a myriad of examples in the Patten Report which require maximum interpretation not minimum implementation.
No cherry-picking: “Similarly in respect to cherry-picking – if the British Government or any one party to the Patten debate choose to cherry-pick in relation to Patten, then Patten will begin to unravel. What I talked about earlier – namely a broad community acceptance of what Patten proposes – will begin to evaporate and we cannot create that uncertainty in the current situation and therefore the British Government and everybody else has to ensure that there’s no cherry-picking, not least when it comes to issues of symbols which are deeply sensitive … but which as somebody said earlier are necessary in order to ensure that we have a police service that is impartial.
No penny-pinching: “As I said earlier there equally needs to be no penny-pinching, that the full cost of the Patten proposals have to be accepted.
Co-operation: “There are two final points that I want to make, especially because I am addressing a southern audience. The frst is that within Patten there are 28 proposals in relation to inter-jurisdictional matters, that is issues whereby there should be co-operation between the new NI policing service on one hand and the Gardai on the other, or British police services or international services as well. I would suggest that all 28 proposals have to be implemented and what that means is that we have training, as Martin outlined, on a shared basis…between the police-services on this island and between these islands. It means long-term exchanges, it means lateral entry into the Northern Ireland Police Service by gardai in the south. It means identifying Catholics who are members of police services in other jurisdiction who might want to come back to the North. It means all of those things and all of those things need to be pursued and developed with vigour because to do so will anticipate European developments on one hand, and will be a set of confidence-building measures on the other, and it will bring about symbolic and substantial change in the early years of the new NI Police Service when there’s yet to be balance within that police service between the communities in the North. The Irish Government have responsibility to ensure that that is worked up and developed as early as possible, as fully as possible.
Conclusion: “The final point I want to make is this that the introduction of a new order on things is perilous, uncertain and difficult. We know arising from the Good Friday Agreement how perilous, uncertain and difficult it has been and the same is true and valid for Patten. My judgement is that culturally and politically, within the parties and within the communities there has been an immense sea-change over the last ten years, where the pain of the last thirty years has given way to wisdom. It seems to me that we have that wisdom that will see us go into government in the next number of days. It seems to me that we have the wisdom to create a new police service in the next number of months. Thank you.”
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Thank you …. Alex mentioned that he had not been to an RUC funeral …… I as a journalist have been to quite a few funerals, covering them in various ways, inluding funerals of poicemen. What always struck me, because they were inevitably Protestant funerals, was how Protestant they were. I often wondered if the IRA, who would inevitably be the perpetrators, for stated political goals and not sectarian goals, often asked themselves if the effect was sectarian because clearly the people who were at the funeral felt that it was an attack upon them as an entire community.
“Just a week ago I was reminded of quite a different side to the coin. I was at a conference in Dungannon called by the Relatives for Justice who put up a list of 400 people who had been killed by either the RUC, the British Army, the RIR, or Loyalists using alleged collusion. I come back to Alex’s point about not having been at a funeral, how divisive it is. How many people on one side of the community in Northern Ireland can name the victims of the other?
“Our next speaker is Bairbre de Brún. Bairbre comes to this particular gathering from the Republican movement who have come through all of that conflict, with all of its many sides … and if the talks that are going on now in Castle Buildings are fruitful, then the bottle is half full and not half empty. I’m going to have to be extremely deferential to Bairbre because she is going to be a Minister. That is so big, it’s hard to take in. Bairbre has been active in politics for the last twenty years but has only recently been elected as a politician, at the Assembly elections. In introducing Bairbre I could take up the line that Martin Mansergh used in the beginning which was that Patten had a balance between continuity and fundamental change and in listening to Alex I think he agreed more or less with everything that Dr. Martin Mansergh said. I wonder if Bairbre also agrees or is she more on the fundamental change side? Her party and her movement have always demanded the disbandment of the RUC and I would be interested to know if, with the prospect of being a Minister in the new Northern Ireland Executive and therefore having responsibility of a direct kind for any new police force in Northern Ireland, what fundamental change she would regard as essential …
3. Bairbre de Brún, MLA (Sinn Féin): “I must say the thought of Brendan O’ Brien being deferential to me is a fundamental change! […opening words as Gaeilge]…. I’d like to thank the organisers of tonight’s meeting for inviting me and to you for coming to listen to the panel. I’d also just like to say I will be speaking in English but if anybody wants to ask questions in Irish I would be glad to answer in Irish.
“Tonight’s talk has two titles, one is “Policing in the New Millennium”, the other is “Perspectives on the Patten Report” and I would like to spend a little time on each of those – what we want in terms of policing in the new millennium and then I will spend some time on perspectives on the report and the consultation which Sinn Fein is engaged in at the minute. I think it’s important to deal a little while we’re talking in terms of what we want for Policing with questions both of symbols and of substance because I think they are both very important.
Sinn Fein’s vision for new police service: “In terms of what we want – I think there’s a lot that people can generally agree with from a lot of different perspectives in terms of what kind of international perspectives there are on policing, and how we can draw from those in ensuring that we have the opportunity now to move into the new millennium with a police service that is created in such a way that it is at the very leading edge at international discussions about what policing ought to be. Sinn Fein obviously wants an all-Ireland policing service, we stated that very clearly in the submission we made to the Patten Commission.
“We also put forward very detailed proposals in this document – that it’s a policing service for a new future (the name of the submission which we made to the Patten Commission and which is available if people want to read it). The reason I point that out is because we have within ourselves a vision of a type of policing service that we would like to see.
Representative police service: “We obviously wanted to see a policing service that is representative of the community to which it serves at all levels; that is in terms of the political, religious make-up of the community, the gender balance of the community, and we set out within our submission different sections of our society and point out that any policing service that wants to police a society, to work with the community, needs to be representative also of that community at all levels, not just at the bottom. And that’s one of the ways in which you can tell whether or not a policing service is in tune with a community and a community with them.
Accountability: “It needs to be accountable to the community as a whole and not just some sections of it, and it needs to be accountable under the law. It needs to be, in our view, routinely unarmed and it needs to be fair, efficient and impartial.
Cultural ethos: “Obviously one of the points for us as well, in terms of our vision of policing in the new millennium, where Ireland is concerned and the North of Ireland in particular, as far as the question of cultural ethos are concerned that a policing service should reflect the culture, the ethos, the identity of the community as a whole and in this respect any force which is openly hostile to the Irish identity, to Nationalist aspirations or to the Catholic faith must be disbanded. We need to have a policing service that reflects the ethos in its way of working.
Kind of people we want to attract to the new service: “I think also, whatever your views of how we reached where we are at the moment, we need to move away from a force that sees its main job as upholding the Union with Great Britain, upholding a particular state, upholding itself as an institution resisting change, resisting accountability and keeping nationalists and republicans in check, policing communities in a very heavy, militaristic fashion. If you have that kind of a force, however you produced it, then those are the kind of people that you will attract, you will attract people who want to carry out that kind of a job. I think when we’re talking about policing in the new millennium, we need to send out clearer signals of what is the kind of a policing service that we want to have and who are the kind of people that we want to attract to it. I think that the kind of people that we want to attract, that we want to recruit are people who are willing to serve the community as a whole, impartial, regardless of whether those are sections that person feels comfortable with or feels in tune with either politically or culturally. People who see themselves as being answerable to all of those people, and don’t see any section of the community being answerable to them, that they see themselves as serving us, people who accept human rights and community awareness as underpinning their approach to their everyday work and people who can and want to contribute to a working environment which is free from sexual harassment, racist or sectarian abuse either of their colleagues or members of the public. I think these are difficulties that arise in many different areas and the one we’re talking about – Policing in the new millennium – that these are areas that we need to be very aware of, whether we’re looking at the structures; our recruiting mechanisms and training.
Training: “I think training is particularly important. I think once we have decided on the kind of people that we want to attract and have gone about attracting them in a certain way, I think it’s important then that we ensure that we have the appropriate training. You talk about accountability mechanisms and complaint mechanisms as well as on-going monitoring.
Dr. Maurice Hayes, a member of the Patten Commission, brought out a report which lays down very clear guidelines on police ombudsmen, prior to being on the Commission, and I think it clearly points out a lot of the important notions that we need to take a look at in terms of appropriate complaints mechanisms, appropriate accountability mechanisms. Alex and Dr. Mansergh both discussed questions of resources which is very important – that if you’re going to have accountability mechanisms that these are properly resourced so that you don’t have the question simply of people investigating themelves and being answerable to themselves and those investigations being monitored by themselves. We need also to ensure that we devise structures which allow the closest possible relationship between the public, the police and the community and obviously a generally local service will be more accountable and effective. Moving away from militaristic style training to human rights training, being part and parcel of everything.
Community awareness: “I think one of the important things that we would like to see in terms of training is that if you’re going to have a policing service that’s generally accountable to the community, that members of the community should play a central role in the development and delivering of the training also, that they should be part and parcel of developing the training through which a fair policing service will be developed and they should also be part and parcel of the monitoring of that training. It needs to be very clear that people going through training don’t simply take on community awareness or anti-sexism awareness training or whatever, simply as a gloss on a militaristic style training. Maybe it’s my teaching background but I’ve always argued that if it isn’t part of the exam then people won’t take it very seriously, so unless community awareness, unless awareness of the society in which you are working in, awareness of the fact that you do serve that community is part and parcel of what will decide whether or not you will become a police officer at the end of the day – if you’re not going to be judged on that but rather on fitness or physical training or on marching or on drill or whatever – then it won’t become an important part of what you take on board during your training.
New beginning: “Since the publication of the Patten Report, there’s obviously been an immense discussion in our community and in all communities, not only formal discussions and public meetings such as this, but discussions in taxis and in shops and in supermarkets and in schools as to whether or not the Patten Report touches adequately on any or all of these matters. A lot of discussion mainly crystallises into the big question “Is this a new beginnning?” and particularly from my community – and I’m obviously speaking on behalf of, like Alex, the area of West Belfast – but also about other similar areas. The question of whether or not the nightmare that was the RUC is over, is this something new, is this a new beginning? Because the promise held out in the Good Friday Agreement is for a new beginning to policing, for a policing service that can have widespread support from and is seen as an integral part of the community as a whole.
Nationalist experience of policing: “The big qustion is in measuring Patten and measuring the 170 odd proposals in it, whether or not they amount to a new beginning, even if they fail, they have the ability and the strength to point in a new direction. I think it’s important to understand why that is so important for people, why it is important that it is something new because for young people growing up in West Belfast and areas like it, the word “police” was synonymous with the word “sectarianism”, with the word “depression”; it was synonymous with harassment, with brutality, of daily humiliation and with people who showed and who still show – because the RUC are still there – total contempt for the political and religious bodies of people in the community. It’s important to understand that while we have the Patten Report, when I open my door and go out onto the street it’s the RUC that’s there and the peace at present is being policed by one of the main protagonists in that conflict and that is still an on-going problem and it is an on-going problem for people who are looking at the Patten Report, that they’re not looking at it in isolation, that they’re not looking at it in a way where you would come into a hall and say “I wonder if Patten is going to be a nice idea, I wonder is it something that will work” and then go home and think about something else because policing is such a major factor to people. It effects them every single day and there are ongoing problems still day-to-day with the RUC in the area. Therefore I think it is very difficult for people, in the context of non-implementation of a lot of the other areas of the Agreement and in the context of ongoing problems of harassment by the RUC which is still going on in many of the areas, for them to come to the kind of discussion and the kind of considerations of the Patten Report that are going to be absolutely necessary if people are to be convinced and that we have a chance of a new beginning. I think we shouldn’t forget what the RUC has meant for people. They have been challenged and criticised by the UN’s Human Rights committee, the UN’s Committee against Torture, Amnesty International, the European Court of Human Rights …. This time last year Rosemary Nelson, a solicitor, was at a congressional hearing in the US telling Congress of the threats that were made to her by the RUC and now Rosemary has since been killed and these are ongoing problems.
Nationalists not anti-policing: “For all of that, I think the wonder is not that nationalists are alienated from the RUC – because they are totally and utterly alienated from the RUC – but they are not anti-policing. Nationalists and Republican people want a policing service, they want stability, they want to have the same kind of services that people anywhere else have, when they have difficulties, when they need advice that they want to seek, when they want help, they want an actual service and I think they’re very willing to talk about the new service. What they don’t want is what they still have and that is the big question – whether or not Patten can actually produce something radically new.
Examination of Patten Report: “We in Sinn Fein are examining the Patten Report at the moment, we are examining it carefully in terms of its recommendations, in the context of the terms of reference that were set out in the Patten Commission under the Good Friday Agreement and set in the context of the hopes and the experience of Republicans and nationalists and also of the wider community. We also intend to scrutininse the British Government’s role, bearing in mind the failure so far to implement other critical sections of the Good Friday Agreement. We will look at this very carefully.
Queries: “There’s obviously some points that have been raised already in our community, quite publicly in fact, and Alex has referred to some of them already – the queries as to whether the core of Patten’s vision, which is a community policing and human rights approach, whether or not this jars totally with suggestions that you might still have emergency legislation, use of plastic bullets and a force which is armed on a routine basis. Whether or not this is possible or whether those two things just go totally contrary to each other and you cannot have one with the other.
Political will: “There’s also the question of political will, has the British Government got the [will].. to produce a new beginning in policing, will the kind of dragging out that we saw over the setting up of the political institutions only be a tenth of the kind of resistance you will have to changes in policing? So there are questions obviously being asked about who will run this new service, who will the people be?
South Africa: “In February of this year there was a very interesting conference in Belfast and there was a woman from South Africa there and she was talking about new policing and bringing about a new service and she was talking about it in South Africa but she was also talking about the time-scale for change. She had a very interesting analogy, she talked about the “Irish Coffee” effect about the policing service in South Africa, where one of the difficulties is you have a large black section at the bottom, a kind of a brown section in the middle, and a small white section at the top. I think if you’re going to hold out the idea of a new beginning in policing to the people and ask them to embrace it, I think one of the major things you should tell them is that it actually is a new beginning, that it will be accountable, that it will be something that respects their community, that it won’t have within it the seeds of reinventing what was there before and it won’t have an Irish Coffee effect. All of those things are very important.
“I think I’ve gone over my time so I’ll finish on that and take any other questions that people have at question time. We will examine the Patten proposals, we will examine not only what’s proposed there but also the big questions that aren’t dealt in there, in terms of who will run the service, how will the British government deal with these questions, what will the legislation look like? We are engaged in this debate both internally and with other groupings at present and in due course we will make our examinations known on that. Thank you.”
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Thank you very much Bairbre. It’s quite clear from what Bairbre is saying that she comes from a community that is about things that you see when you wake up in the morning. … Some of the points that Bairbre de Brun has made there, using pretty strong language – she called the RUC a nightmare, a sectarian force which has total contempt for the political and religious beliefs of the people she represents, ongoing harassment, and she says that the people that she knows are completely alienated from the RUC. Now Bairbre of course didn’t answer the big question which is whether Sinn Fein accepts Patten because she says that their experience of the British government in dealing with legislation leaves them to wait and see what the legislation is and how it’s handled and all the rest, something which Alex indirectly referred to when he talked about the institutional resistance coming from the NIO, the Police Authority and the RUC to change. Quite clearly when you put it in those kind of ways there is a very major debate about policing and it is quite fundamental to democracy.
Our next speaker is James Leslie, from Ballymoney in the north of the North …
4. James Leslie, MLA (UUP): “Thank you chairman, a heavily loaded introduction. I’ll do my best to deal with some of the extra items that you’ve thrown my way.
Importance of debate: “First of all I’d like to thank the Meath Peace Group for inviting the Ulster Unionist Party to send somebody to this debate and to other debates which they’ve held. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to come and participate in these talks. One of the problems that politicians, I think in all political parties in Northern Ireland have, is that they spend most of their time talking to people from their own party – that doesn’t mean to say that people agree with what they have to say. I think you only really do half the job if you don’t debate the issues with somebody who has an opposite point of view to your own. I think it’s a sign of a growing-up or maturing of politics in Northern Ireland that these things are starting to happen. I can dimly remember, but only dimly – I’d only have been about ten at the time – public meetings in the 1960s where that did happen, where quite often the two points of view would be two very dramatically different points of view of Unionism. Nonetheless, at least a debate took place. A lot of that activity was hijacked by the treatment some speakers received and it was a shame that debates in all sorts of ways didn’t occur in the interim. ….
Perspectives on policing: “First of all I would like to approach the perspectives on policing as I think that is the main theme that I would like to address and if you look at the Patten Commission Report as a whole I feel that is a great deal of what it is, this is how we would like policing to work. … The society which we have at the moment is perhaps not at the point in which you are able to operate policing in all of the ways that you would like. It remains to be seen as to whether that is going to be possible.
Common issues in policing: “I also think that in terms of being able to talk to you here, there are common issues in policing that apply on both sides of the border, in fact I think that most of the issues relating to policing are going to have a great deal of commonality about them. The same is true of other countries. Now obviously the one common issue is ongoing terrorism and the threat there-of and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Garda Siochana, particularly in recent weeks in dealing with the threat from dissident Republicans. We are very grateful for what they have achieved there and I hope they will continue to be successful in that respect.
What society wants of police service: “I think when you look at what it is you want the police to do, I would like to think we can start in the same place, which is that the police are there to uphold the law and protect citizens from harm both to themselves and to their property. Now most of the law involved in that proposition is the criminal law and I don’t think there’s much deviation in what the general tenets of the criminal law cover and it is also crucial that that law is above us all and is interpreted fairly by the courts and is applied equally to all. In the soundings that the Patten Commission took of what society as a whole felt they wanted from the police, I think that came over fairly clearly and just quoting from the report “the solid majority of both traditions want an effective policing service which maintains order and protects their rights”.
Opposition to police: “If we look at opposition to police, it seems to me that the flavour and the places where it comes from tends to have a lot of similarities. I am representing a constituency which is predominantly or very predominantly Unionist – around 80% of the votes cast in North Antrim would be Unionist. Now most of the work that the police would do in my constituency would relate to trying to deal with loyalist paramilitaries and I get a litany of complaints to my office about the actions of the police in their efforts to deal with these loyalist terrorists. I get complaints about harassment .. and I take it a little bit further and usually I find that the person who is complaining is usually fairly closely representative of the person who is thought to be perpetrating the acts that the police are trying to deal with.
“We hear and we heard very consistently at the public hearings by the Patten Commission of an immense desire throughout society for police to be much more visible, to be on the beat, on their feet, to be relating directly with the neighbourhood. You will know that you have estates in Dublin as we have estates in Northern Ireland, not just in Belfast either, where it’s simply not safe for one or a pair of policemen on their feet trying to operate. The only way that they can operate safely in these estates is if they are present in numbers or are able to call up large numbers in their support. And those people who take issue with the police in these estates, I don’t think when they’re objecting, which they do very vigorously and often violently, it’s not in any political or religious or any other kind of distinction, they’re simply against the police and what the police are trying to do which is uphold the law and usually protect citizens from other citizens.
Armed criminals: “As we look ahead, if we can deal, as I trust that we can, with the political issues and use the Belfast Agreement as a blue-print for living together in Northern Ireland which is what I regard as being the central theme, I think we’re still going to have a problem. That is even if we can get a complete end to terrorist activities in what you might call the political road, I think it is inevitable that many of those people who were previouly involved in terrorism are going to be involved in other sorts of criminalities and you’ve only got to look at the whole drugs industry or trade to see this operating already. The problem police are having and they have this in the US, they have this in the Republic and they have it in Northern Ireland, is that you’ve got people carrying out that activity who would tend to be very violent in pursuit of what they’re doing, in defence of what they’re doing…. In Ireland, north and south, they’re capable of being very heavily armed because of all the weapons that have been imported over the years and also they’re quite likely to have been quite well trained in how to use them. It’s inevitable that the police in trying to deal with that have got to be able to defend themselves, they cannot defend society if they cannot defend themselves, so I think it’s inevitable that police are going to have to maintain some sort of paramilitary – in the traditional sense of the word – capability to deal with this threat. We saw that quite clearly two weeks ago when the gardai found the firing range [of dissident republicans] – they went in with stun grenades, they were very heavily armed because they know from experience that they might run into resistance from what they’re doing and we’re starting to see the same again in trying to deal with the drugs trade.
Community involvement: “There’s a great deal very sensible and worthy of focus in the Patten Commission Report on how you involve the community – the community having considerable say in the policing that it wants and the way that that operates. I think in the US in some states, the experience is highly relevant where they are able to elect people specifically in order to achieve particular objectives in relation to policing. One of the things that is quite noticeable is that they had to pay considerably more in order to get what they wanted on the policing front and I think that’s a thought I would put in your mind.
Costs of implementing Patten: “Alex Attwood referred to the considerable cost that would be involved in implementing the Patten Report and knowing the Treasury I dare say there will be some arm-wrestling about getting all of the costs covered. Just a general thought to you, I think we’re all quite unnecessarily squeamish about this. As crime as a whole has risen and expanded, we all tend to say insurance companies take the strain, but insurance companies make money, we take the strain because we all pay higher insurance premiums. I think if you look at the increase in your house premiums for the last ten years, the increase is very considerable, mine have gone up from £40 to £240 and it’s not an unusual example. If you were asked to pay £200 extra for policing, there’s going to be a terrible racket, but you’re going to pay it somewhere.
Problems with Patten Report: “… I said earlier I think the Patten Report is good on how you would like policing to work … Where I find the report most objectionable is that it seems to be gratuitously insensitive by the sacrifice made by at least 302 officers of the RUC murdered during the last 30 years. About 24,000 officers served in the force during that period, and that makes the death rate one in 80 and that really is a very high casualty rate. One officer in three has been injured in some way. Those are the physical casualties, there are no statistics there on the psychological casualties but I think you would assume from the physical causalties that the psychological casualties are going to be quite high. 97% of those officers who died, their deaths were attributed to Republican terrorists. It’s not therefore surprising that the police feel that they are being particularly threatened from one direction. When you go to public order policing – that’s dealing with riots – there has been plenty of that by all sides in the argument. A comment made by a police officer sticks in my mind – and he would be quite typical of a lot of policemen I know who certainly don’t have any political affiliation, they would be very a-political as a result of their experiences. He said to me “It doesn’t matter whether the brick was thrown by a loyalist or a republican, if it hits you it hurts”.
Policing an uncivil society: “The other problem that I see with the Patten report is that I think it is insufficiently rigorous in distinguishing between the circumstances that we have in Northern Ireland right now at this minute and the circumstances that we would like to have, and in which a lot of the perfectly sensible recommendations about how you would police a civil society could take place. I mean how do you police an uncivil society? I feel that the report frequently ducks that issue, it announces the issue but I feel it’s not rigorous enough in taking it on to each area of its recommendations. In this respect I think, the report having said that this is an issue, I don’t know how the authors of the report could then go on to say that the report has to be taken as a total package. It seems to me that there are some straighforward issues of commonsense, never mind anything else, that are going to have to come into play. It seems to me that there is plenty in there that you might be able to proceed with but there is also a very great deal there which you cannot in the present circumstances. It would be terrific if those changed and we trust that they will but I think that it would unfortunate if we did not acknowledge that some of the changes proposed are probably some distance down the line and I think it would be unworthy of politicians not to acknowledge that there is a very different time-scale for some than the time-scale that there is for others.
Police numbers: “I’ll just say a word or two about police numbers. I think we’re all aware that respect for the law in western society seems to have diminished. Perhaps one of the consequences of that is that the numbers of police that you need may be larger. I also think that as more and more of the population lives in urban areas rather than rural areas, this may also be a consequence of it. There were some very useful statistics in the Patten Report. In Northern Ireland when the police was established, there were 11,500 policemen – that’s one to every 140 people. In mainland UK it’s almost three times that – 1 to 390. The new size of the police service in Northern Ireland would be 1 to 220, so that’s a 50% decrease, the actual number of police comes down by a third. In New York they now have 1 for every 200. I suspect – and thowing back to my point about the cost of insurance to us all – it may unfortunately, whilst we go through this period when respect for the law seems to be diminishing in a very general way, be something that we’re all going to have to focus on.
Conclusion: “Just to wind up. If the police are the barrier between the law-breakers and the law-abiders inevitably they are going to become a target for the law-breakers. The more widespread law-breaking the more people there are that are going to make police a target. What we are hoping to do in Northern Ireland is have a much greater number of law-abiders. The law- abiders must be able to give their unequivocal support to their servants whom society has appointed to uphold that law and their servants are the police. Thank you.”
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Thank you … Just before I take any questions, maybe I’ll just throw in one thing that Bairbre de Brún said, that Sinn Féin want an all-Ireland police force. That question involves everybody in this hall, whether you think that is desirable or not in relation to what you’ve got in Northern Ireland and what is trying to be solved. She didn’t say what Pat Doherty said as a considered view of Sinn Fein: that they would judge Patten as to whether it would be seen to be – I’m paraphrasing here – a transition towards all-Ireland policing. So that’s a very fundamental point, not surprising coming from Sinn Fein but for a southern audience can we assume that everybody wants all- Ireland policing or can we assume that people’s views are considerably different to that….
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summaries only)
Q1: John Feighery, SVD (member of the Irish Association): “I was shocked to hear Alex Attwood had never been to a funeral of a policeman and I think that shows just how radical that alienation and division is in the North…… I think we in the south have no idea of the level of aggression and alienation felt by the nationalist community. I suppose one way to look at it in a parallel way would be to think the way the black community is feeling in England; the harassment, the lack of interest, the constant accusations that they meet with and it all points to the need for a very, very radical reformulation along the lines of Patten. At the same time while we can sympathise with the Unionist community who have been profoundly humiliated – and certainly it does seem that the Patten Report didn’t acknowledge the deaths of so many members of the RUC – I can’t help thinking that the criticisms of our Unionist guest are very marginal, the Commission was an international commission run by the British Government… One particular question which I would like to address to Bairbre is about community input: we know that in America and lots of other countries the community has a big input and obviously there should be a lot of dialogue but one problem I see with that is, given the fact that partly due to all the results of the Troubles, the people – Unionists and Nationalists – are living more and more marginally away from one another, how could there be an adequate community input that would be beneficial for the whole community, if geographically the communities are living in a relatively isolated way. I’d be interested in your views on that.
Brendan O’Brien: In a sense John you’ve asked two questions – one to James Leslie about the recognition of the pain on the nationalist side, whether that is in a sense publicly acknowledged, and the direct question to Bairbre.
Bairbre de Brún: “I do think that when I’m talking about community input, I think it can be overcome. There are structures which will be overall structures, you will have local structures, you will have very localised structures, but I’m thinking in terms of community input into training – for example developing training, overseeing training, that would be people drawn from the whole community. So the fact that particular communities will be very localised, it won’t necessarily impact all the things I am saying. You will have people drawn from legal experts, human rights experts, people drawn from different local communities who would have different political perspectives but who would come together to ensure that your ordinary everyday person, your localities, your human rights people, your academics, your legal experts are together designing an input into training. When I’m talking about community input, if you’re designing training around community awareness. For example we had a series of excellent seminars, transition seminars for Assembly members. One of them was an equality seminar and all of the speakers were men which was quite amazing. When you’re talking about designing and developing there has to be people looking who can actually look at the designing and training and say “your speakers are all men”, or “your traders are all from one section” etc. In other areas, yes I think it could be quite localised.
Costs: “I think you could have a big debate on paying extra, as James was saying, for the type of policing that you want and there are sections certainly in a lot of the submissions about the differences of how you decide, the international discussion that’s going on at the moment of the budget for policing and the budget for police don’t have to be the same. For example there will be a debate around drugs .. as to whether or not all the budget for drugs needs to be in the policing budget – needs to go into specialised units – or whether some of it needs to go into education in local areas so that you have young people who are confident and able to say “no”, who have the self-confidence and self-awareness and self-esteem not to want to get into that in the first place. That’s going to be a big debate in the communities and not all communities will come up with the same answer, so when I’m talking about community involovement in terms of stewarding, whether people want the St. Patrick’s Day parades stewarded by somebody else for example and want to pay their policing budget that way.
“Different communities will come up with different answers but obviously there will be questions particularly in terms of public order but they are questions that for me the fundamental is that it’s an equal relationship. Once you have an equal relationship between the community and the policing service that’s established for that community then I think all of the other problems will be the dynamics of the cut and thrust of the debates that will take place.
Dr. Martin Mansergh: “Just one point for clarification. Patten does say as far as the cost of reducing the number of police over a ten year period would be neutral. I think you can take it that there were background discussions with the Treasury while this part of the report was being put together so actually the cost of the reform of the policing is entirely neutral over the long term. Obviously there is a higher cost as always is the case with voluntary redundancy. There is an upfront cost that once you get to the end of a period you’ve got savings for the smaller numbers. I just wanted to clarify that.
Q2: Tom Hodgins (Drogheda Ecumenical Peace Group): “Having read the report, one thing that jumped out at me was the new oath that would be taken by police officers incorporating the Human Rights Convention – that would have to be welcome I would think. The police ombudsmen facility has already been alluded to by Dr. Mansergh I think but two things that I thought were huge changes is that each chief officer appointed would be appointed on the basis of their capacity to introduce and to adapt to changes. I think that’s a big issue and I think the fact that policing board itself and the district board, I’m not sure of the exact name, would meet publicly each month. I think the Gardai could learn much from that. From what I’ve heard from people on the ground about symbols – I think that’s not the real issue, I think it could be created into an issue but I don’t think it’s a real issue. The question I have is for Bairbre and James. … Is there a danger that the Patten Report will be used as a tactic or as a bargaining tool?
Brendan O’Brien: “I presume that you mean will it be used as a bargaining tool in the political arena?
James Leslie: “There’s always tremendous conspiracy theories about whether particular issues will be used as a bargaining tool in relation to some other issue. It is not our intention to go down that route. We think that the policing issue is the policing issue and therefore it will be looked at within that context. The report itself brings up a lot of issues rather than solutions and there is a great deal of work for Parliament to do in implementing much of what is in here. The point came up there about the district police partnership board and suggestions in [the report] about how these should be formed and take place. There’s going to be a lot of work for Parliament to do.
Brendan O’Brien: “Can I just bring up something that the questioner referred to about emblems and badges and symbols. I’m sure we’ve all seen the main Unionist objection on that issue and you actually didn’t refer to that at all in what you had to say, so is that real or is that tactical?
James Leslie, MLA: “I think it’s real and it relates to the issue of 300 officers who gave their lives and the 8,000 that have been injured and it’s very noticeable that in a report a year ago it specifically recommended that there be no changes in those fields. It does seem to me that the issue of the badge was dealt with in 1921 by having the harp and the shamrock. I just wonder if you’re going to do a much better job by trying to start all over again on that one. The other thing is that a police force that does work in such dangerous circumstances does need to have a sort of … police officers have to work as colleagues and as friends and the way that you normally achieve that is that they’re bound around the team or the organisation that they’re playing for …
Brendan O’Brien: “What about the point Dr. Mansergh made that you could say what you like about the shamrock and the crown coming together but the actual physical experience has another meaning altogether, that it symbolises something else for nationalists. Are you yourself against the symbolic change?
James Leslie: “Well my observation of them is they don’t seem to be demanded by the evidence that the Patten Commission took. It’s not obvious to me how better the special badge is going to be devised and so I can’t see the merit in change. There is a considerable amount of other changes in here which relate to the way in which the police force operates and I feel that is the important place to have change.
Brendan O’Brien: “There was a question for Bairbre about using the Patten report as a tactic. To come at you from this other side about all-Ireland policing; could we have a situation where Sinn Fein will withhold its support for Patten until such time it is convinced the whole drift of the Belfast Agreement is transitionary towards all-Ireland structures?
Bairbre de Brún: “I think two things; one I don’t think you can divorce a policing service from the overall political context in which it operates and I don’t think you can talk about whether or not people will give allegiance to a policing service except in that they will obviously be affected by that wider political context. We’ve said very clearly in the statement that we put out after the Patten Report was published that we would judge the Patten Report on the proposals, on the remit that was given to the Patten Commission in the Good Friday Agreement and on the hopes and the experiences and the wishes of people in our areas. So we will look at whether or not we have a new policing service and that is what we are going to judge the Patten proposals on. We are going to ensure that what we’re being offered is not a re-packaged RUC, because if it’s a re-packaged RUC people will react to the re-packaged version exactly the way that they reacted to the one that was there before. What was promised in terms of a new beginning in the Good Friday Agreement would not be forthcoming. But no, I don’t think that Nationalists or Republicans want to use the Patten Report as a bargaining tool for something else. If for no other reason than that policing is in itself one of the most important issues so there’s no question of it being used as a bargaining for something because it itself is so crucial to us and was so crucial to us in terms of the whole negotiations.
Q3: Ronnie Owen (Slane): “I think that in a sense that Bairbre is already playing tactical games with us as regards the report. She is the one who says “we will be doing that” or “we will be looking at” – even Mr. Leslie says that a lot of it is welcome, he has reservations about how it will work in some areas, but in a different context which I understand it in the event of an overall peace agreement that much more of it would be acceptable. The overall Patten Report I would suggest still uses the new police force as a kind of imperial force that is imposing peace as opposed to what Mr.Leslie talked about – a more civic society where something along the lines of our own Garda Siochana – the Guardians of the Peace – would be a much more appropriate definition of what the police force is set to do rather than to enforce peace on people. I think the context of the new police force must rest on the idea of a peace agreement being understood by all sections of the community and then this new Patten Report’s police force hopefully will then be welcomed by Bairbre de Brun.
Q4: Cllr. Joe Reilly [Sinn Féin, Navan]: “I would like to welcome James to the Royal County – I would have to say that I was a little surprised at your contribution in that from where I’m coming from you seem to have put the whole thing on a law and order issue and ignored the fundamental problems that there are around the policing issues ….. or do you recognise that there is a political problem there and the police are part of that problem and the RUC is part of that problem?
Q5: David Thompson (Portadown UUP member): “I’m an Ulster Unionist from the Portadown branch. I’ve listened to a number of the comments. Alex mentioned the fact that there’s been a quiet response to the Patten Report, in all honesty there’s a fairly quiet response in the Unionist community to the whole process at the moment…… A senior member of your party said to me about 6 weeks ago, in many ways it is sold on the basis that they deliver non-violence … In many ways the response to the Patten Commission is that same feeling, that the Patten Commission was written in the context of this new beginning and this new beginning is nowhere near. In fact it’s the old political manoeuvring between Unionists and Republicans. In that situation what we’re looking at is the destruction of the RUC. David Trimble, when he responded as he did, hit the core. I’m fairly lucky, I live in a suburb of Portadown and hidden amongst the people who live around me are members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and some of their children go to the same school as my children. Some of their children don’t know what their daddy does; they don’t see the uniform, they don’t talk about their job at all. I know them and I know they’re policemen and they are there making that contribution to our community. One of those policemen was driven out of his home because he was recognised at Drumcree in 1996. They actually came up to his house and started pelting stones, pelting eggs and he had to move.
“These weren’t Republicans, these were so-called Loyalists. Constable Frankie O’Reilly was killed by a Loyalist. The RUC have made a very strong commitment to our community and I can tell you that the ones that I know are committed to professional policing. They’re also extremely aware of the mafia element which is now growing up in our community while we try to get Northern Ireland ruled into a new future. I am totally committed to the Good Friday Agreement, but I don’t know just how we’re going to succeed in getting it, but I think there is universal acceptance that the past is a failure for everybody. But filling that vacuum at the moment you seem to be getting this mafia element. … They do tend to come under attack in the nationalist or unionist areas. Two years ago in ‘97 …the police were there [in Portadown] and the police were getting harassed by the boys, not the residents. The boys came in to protect the community, as soon as they saw me, they recognised me, they said “we want you to do this, we want you to make these complaints about the police” and I listened to what they had to say and I spoke to some of the residents and I spoke to the police and as you said the trouble-makers were the ones who were trying to get me to complain about the police ….. and I was forcibly told that there was no chance of me getting elected as an RUC lover. …
“In terms of the symbols, it was said to me by somebody ..that the way in which the Patten Commission doctored emblems and symbols was tantamount to taking the RUC …..on a regimental type parade and tearing the badge and insignias from their uniforms and dismissing them in disgrace. That’s the way it was felt. The sacrifice that they have given over the last 30 years was nowt. That hurts, that demoralises the very electorate that we rely on to get this Agreement through. What we’re looking at is the total demoralisation of the electorate in the Unionist community, in support of the Good Friday Agreement because of the lack of sensitivity. I would say to you in all honesty, if we were dealing with a new beginning where one of the most vicious, evil and sectarian terrorist organisations from the last 30 years that is now standing on the moral high ground .. and is not even willing to admit that it ……… then you’ve got a problem in sensitivity between the two traditions. I was totally appalled by the fact, we were all appalled by the fact that over the last 30 years, in fact probably going back further than 30 years, I can’t take responsibility for my father’s actions and I can’t change the past, but I do want to change the future and we’re going to have to get on with it. I was pleased to see Bairbre and James talking and exchanging smilies, it’s good to see, it’s a start. We need to start thinking about the other people and we need to start thinking about what we’re trying to achieve, not where we came from in our own constituency.
“In terms of the Patten Commission Report which is why we’re here tonight, I’ve been told that a lot of the good which is through the Patten Report has actually been taken from a fundamental review on the police force which I find very acceptable because I want to see our police force a very very professional force and I want to see embedded in it effectively real human rights because that is our future for all of us and it has to start now, irrespective of what happened in the past and why.
“But unfortunately there are elements in it which I can’t ignore, district policing boards – if we had a district policing board in Portadown or Craigavon – do you honestly believe that district policing or any supplementary policing that they took on board would be sympathetic to the .. nationalist community? I mean you’ve got a Unionist majority on the council and you would inevitably have a Unionist majority on the district policing board. I’m sorry I just don’t believe it will work. The only way we can get a proper balance, the only way we can maintain that balance is nationally and I have no problem with the policing board at all which takes Northern Ireland’s constituents and makes sure we don’t get this imbalance.
Q6: Neil Magill [Columban missionary, Dalgan Park]: “I think the implementation of the Patten Report would be a big step forward towards an impartial and fair police force which can work with the community but I have great fears about how to change the mindset, the psychological barriers, the barriers in people’s minds. They tell me I’m being judgmental because I’m from the North, and I’ll just give this example. Last week my sister, she’s living outside Omagh, Monday morning she was rushing into Omagh with her daughter who studies at UCD, to take the bus to Dublin. On the outskirts of Omagh, a few policemen stopped her, she was inside a 50-mile limit, she was over that, they asked her for her licence and asked her why she was rushing and she said “I’m bringing my daughter to take the bus to Dublin”. He fined her £40, 3 points and she said that was fine but what the policemen did then was they took her licence, sat in their police car for ten minutes, ten minutes later they gave her back her licence and said “you can go now but your bus is gone”. This is what is happening and how can we change that mindset? It’s like she was being punished because she’s a Catholic. Is that real or perceived? I think it’s very real. “
Q7: John Hutchinson [Meath resident, originally from Donegal]: “We could talk all night about our various perspectives on things but it’s basically circumstantial. Members of the RUC are born into their own area. They have their culture, they have their influences and some of them as a consequence of that end up serving in the RUC that’s why. Others end up in paramilitaries on the other side or on the Unionist/Loyalist side, that happens. Tonight we have here a wonderful opportunity which we didn’t have years ago to sit at tables together and speak and it’s happening. The circumstances have to change – three speakers here talked about status quo – we can talk about the maintenance of status quo that blinds people with hatred because of the mental and physical scars of the years. … We can maintain that status quo, James, but we have to find an alternative. … Many people are contributing, it’s time to start seeing a situation where the children of our country, when you hear a door slamming, as I do in the south of Ireland, I initially don’t here a door slamming, I hear a gun and it registers, in the last few years it gets a little easier, but there are people here who live in the south who fortunately are beyond the civil war and they hear a door slamming. Let’s work towards seeing a way to find the language of saying words that don’t cause anger. We can go back over them and over them. Finding a way where the RUC man does not have to put on his bullet-proof vest to walk out because there is a psychological impact as well. …. and you’ve got IRA men who have to live like other paramilitaries with the terrible, terrible pain of having killed someone when they get up in the morning. God has spared some of us that. Let’s work towards hearing the door slamming.”
Bairbre de Brún: “As far as David Thompson said, I agree probably more with you than with Alex Attwood on that point as to why there is a quiet response on Patten at the moment, although I suspect that the muted reaction to Patten is because it’s a consultation period and nobody is quite sure what the British Government is going to do about it and that it will be less muted when it becomes clearer what the British government is going to do about it. On the earlier question… I can assure you that I am not being tactical, I can assure you that we want a new beginning in policing and that anything that I’m doing in terms of discussing is about obtaining that…. It’s important that you do understand that I am in a way held back by the fact that the party is in a consultation period, frequently are, whether it was after the Good Friday Agreement or whether it was after various other proposals throughout the year, that we do take the time and have consultation periods and the response we give at the end of those consultation periods is sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no” but it’s always about going out, discussing, analysing, looking – that is the way we operate. So there are certain things that I can’t freely say here tonight because I am a leading member of my party and I think that other members of the party can more freely say “yes” or “no” to details than what I can do. But I don’t think you should be worried by that because James, although he’s being very positive, actually comes from a party that has set up a working party to analyse the Patten Report and my party has set up a working party to analyse it so I don’t think you can take what the two of us say here tonight as an indication of whether we’re going for it or not or the other way around.
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “I just wanted to ask you Bairbre, given the time-scale that we’re talking about in consultation – should you become a Minister before the Patten legislation comes into effect, and Sinn Fein is seriously critical of the legislation, can you see yourself as a Minister of a government not encouraging people to join a police force?
Bairbre de Brún, MLA: “Well certainly if I am a Minister on the basis of the Good Friday Agreeent and I think that what is created runs against what was promised in the Good Friday Agreement, I would absolutely see myself in a ministerial office not recommending it, in fact very clearly I will recommend what I think is in keeping with what we signed up to in the Good Friday Agreement, but if it’s not then not only I would have no problem but in fact I would see it as an absolute duty to say it’s not what we want.
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Another huge debate there. James do you want to say anything to this man over here who made a rather impassioned plea to you to look to the future?
Questioner: It’s not just you I was referring to.
James Leslie, MLA: “Well I feel as though I am looking to the future, to echo the words of David Thompson, I can’t fix the past, I can only address myself to the now and to the future. In relation to Cllr. Reilly’s question; yes I do see policing as a law and order issue. I see law and order as being the business of the police, I see politics being the business of the politicians and the Patten Commission sets out objections for itself in taking the politics out of policing. I think there is less politics in policing than what is perhaps generally appreciated and that equally if we can even remove the perception that there’s any then I think that would be a very good result. Parliament decide what the law is, most of us obey it and the police have to deal with those who don’t, that’s what police forces do.
Q9: Cllr. Phil Cantwell (Chairman of Trim UDC): “I agree with Alex Attwood there about … justice. We have a Garda Siochana here that we can be proud of. We’re asking the RUC and everybody to change but are we prepared to change down here? The GAA refused to change the rules to allow members of the RUC play GAA. Can I put the question to Alex and Bairbre – when are you going to start encouraging the Nationalists to join the RUC and change it? I support that man there, let’s start from the beginning, forget about looking back. Get the Nationalists into the RUC and make the damn thing work. So I’ll put it to you and Alex, when are you going to say “let’s get in and make the thing work” or ask the GAA to change the rules?
Bairbre de Brún: “I will certainly not, under any circumstances be asking people to join the RUC, that I will absolutely certainly not do. When we have a new policing service that I am guaranteed is a new policing service, it’s a different question. My community – when I open my door in the morning what I have outside at the moment, is not a new policing service, it’s the RUC. This man’s relatives in Omagh, their experiences of the RUC. I visited on Sunday, one of my constituents whose son died a month ago, and she talked about the RUC coming into her home a week afterwards and standing laughing at his photograph.
Phil Cantwell: “I meant the new policing service.”
Bairbre: “OK, well that is a very different question. The answer then is when we’re sure that what we have is a new beginning. I want to see a new beginning”.
Phil Cantwell: “When will that be?”
Bairbre: “It will be when that’s what there is.”
Alex Attwood, MLA: “The answer is when there is a new policing order then the SDLP will encourage people to join that new policing order. When the Good Friday Agreement is implemented, when the Patten Report is implemented, then we’ll be saying to every citizen in the North you should participate in every institution and every institution set up under the Good Friday Agreement. We won’t shirk that responsibility. That can be sooner than Bairbre vaguely says. I don’t doubt that what Bairbre and David are saying are genuine because I know that they do a lot of things that are very difficult and very brave but I think that they are wrong. I do not believe that Bairbre de Brun’s assertion that the Nationalist community is totally, utterly and completely alienated from the RUC is correct. That may be the view of some, it is not the view of all, even though all of us have a grievance. I know that David says that Patten is part of the demoralisation of the Unionist community. That may be true in Portadown but I do not believe that it is true of the Unionist community in general. I think we’re much broader churches than those sort of statements suggest and therefore there is a much greater diversity of view than saying the unionist community is completely alienated or the nationalist community is completely alienated.
Phil Cantwell: “I’d just like to ask Bairbre that if the GAA rule was changed, would Bairbre endorse that?”
Bairbre: “No I think the GAA is perfectly right in saying that it’s far far too premature at present and that they need to look and see what’s happening. I didn’t hear Alex Attwood make a time-scale that was any less vague than mine to be absolutely truthful. I think that not only would I say to people that we’re not rushing to make decisions at present but I would appeal to anybody that’s genuinely interested in seeing a new beginning in policing, not to make any hasty decisions anyway. Let’s build towards something new but let’s not make the mistake that because we have a piece of paper here that we have a new beginning.
Alex Attwood: “Don’t rush to hasty judgements – let her apply that principal to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreeement . Sinn Fein are repeatedly, endlessly talking about the Good Friday Agreement not being implemented etc. and now you’re saying don’t rush judgment with respect to policing, why are you rushing judgment with everything else? Apply the same principles to all elements of the Good Friday Agreement, do not be selective with respect to one or the other.”
Bairbre de Brún, MLA: “Hold on a minute. I am perfectly capable of saying whether or not the equality agenda has been implemented, whether or not there are institutions in place and whether or not the human rights of people are better or worse than they were 18 months ago. There is a difference between making hasty judgments, betwen saying, “I’ve looking at Patten and it should be put in the bin”, or “I’ve looked at Patten and that means I’ve got a new policing service and I don’t have the RUC outside my door” and saying “I want a new beginning to policing and I will look at this to see if this solves it”.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything to get new policing or that I’m not doing anything about getting equality or that I’m not doing anything about getting human rights or the other things. There’s a difference between making knee-jerk reactions saying “I want an alternative to Patten”, when I haven’t even finished reading the three chapters of it and I’m already going to look for an alternative and I think it’s the shoddiest piece of work that was ever written, or saying “ I think it’s wonderful and it’s absolutely brilliant and therefore we now no longer have the RUC outside our doors” and saying “I want a new beginning to policing and I will work for that” and not pretend that that’s what we’ve got at the moment”.
Chair (Brendan O’Brien): “Now I’m going to give Dr. Mansergh the last say, but before I do there’s a man here who has something to say and I think our friend from Portadown also wants to speak.”
Q.10. John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “It was very interesting listening to all the speakers but from the perspective of someone who lives in the south I find it sublimely depressing in terms of the sitting on the fence that I’ve heard here about Patten, about Good Friday and all that. But I would put forward this perspective, and it is a perspective held by a broad band of people in the 26 counties – get on with the job of implementing the electoral mandate that you were given when voters both north and south voted “implement Good Friday” and that’s addressed to you Ms. De Brun, to you Mr. Attwood and to you Mr. Leslie.
Q.11. David Thompson: “Just two comments; one, put yourself in the place of the RUC now over the last number of years. Because of the violence when the troubles started, there were certain sections, probably Nationalist sections of the community you couldn’t go into. Then there were probably Nationalist middle-class sections you couldn’t go into. Then we get to 1985 and you couldn’t go into certain Protestant working-class areas and now it’s pushed and pushed and pushed where we’re now in the sort of upper-middle-class leafy suburbs fighting. How much chance do you think they get to really get in touch with the communities they are trying to police? It makes it extremely difficult for a police service operating in that environment. We’ve almost got a police service in Northern Ireland into a third community. They’re not really a unionist or a nationalist police service, they’re actually almost separate identities now. They’re hiding and they have been hiding.
“The second point that I wanted to make is going back to that thing about emblems. If we really knew the violence had been set aside as a thing of the past, if we could be sure that it’s going to take extreme situations to occur before we will actually reach out with violence again. Then we could have at least said, we’re set in the past now, the Unionist community could have said to the RUC “thank you, job well done” and the service could have easily been changed and the emblems and badges and things being set aside with honour and we could have moved on. The problem is we haven’t got the confidence to say that ………..and I would say to our politicians that that’s what we want to hear along with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Dr. Martin Mansergh: “If I could just pick up on what the last speaker was saying. I wouldn’t be too pessimistic, I think that that situation could come, and I think it’s very important so that we don’t have more policemen killed, so that they come out of what you described as limbo, is an acceptable basis to be established so that they are no longer in that limbo, so that they feel they have support or as much support as the police have in any normal community, if you remember that it will never be total.
All-Ireland policing: “There was just one theme, chaiman, which you picked up at the beginning of what I feel ..was a very constructive and calm and reasoned discussion tonight, the question of all-Ireland policing. Sometimes all-Ireland policing is used in the context of another debate like in a European army, you don’t really mean an all-Ireland police but just an element of all-Ireland policing. I remember when this came up for debate in 1982, it came up in an election context, and in fact was fairly divisive but then of course I suppose you were talking about the RUC as it has been in the last twenty, thirty years and in fact I think the RUC has evolved very considerably over the last thirty years and naturally enough thinking of the more Republican section of the community there was a very decided resistance to that idea. I think now you can imagine a situation of Patten being implemented and so on that the two police forces could co-operate very closely and could have – it’s touched on in the Patten report – training facilities on each side, have exchanges and so on. I don’t think to be realistic about it, in particular about the politics of it, that we’ll have an all-Ireland police service in the fullest sense of that term only when you have an all-Ireland policy, an all-Ireland police service if and when you get a united Ireland. I think irresepective of whether you get to that stage, I think there’s a great deal of merit – I mean we share an island together – of getting the situation where the inhibition, the barriers, the co-operation, the police services North and south can work very closely together without causing major umbrage either to Unionists or for that matter Republicans. I think we can get there, I think if we can get the institutions working, if people have the courage to go the whole hog with the report, I mean it isn’t going to work if people aren’t going to go the whole hog, then I think you could have a totally transformed situation in a few years time and relationships that were inconceivable a few years ago. I would be sort of cautiously hopeful, I mean provided that we keep up our courage and our convictions”
APPENDIX A: PATTEN COMMISSION (Independent Commission on Policing)
The Independent Commission on Policing was established on 3 June 1998 under the chairmanship of Christopher Patten, and after widespread consultation, public and private meetings, hearing of petitions and over 2, 500 individual submissions, produced its report (containing 175 recommendations) in September, 1999.
Terms of Reference as set out in the Good Friday Agreement: To “inquire into policing in Northern Ireland, and, on the basis of its findings, bring forward proposals for future policing structures and arrangements, including means of encouraging widespread community support for those arrangements. Its proposals on policing should be designed to ensure that policing arrangements, including composition, recruitment, training, culture, ethos and symbols, are such that in a new approach Northern Ireland has a police service that can enjoy widespread support from, and is seen as an integral part of, the community as a whole.”
APPENDIX B: “All I Have is Yours” – Msgr. Denis Faul, P.P., Termonmaguire, Co. Tyrone
Editor’s note: Msgr. Denis Faul was invited to speak but was unable to come on the date and sent his intended contribution in writing – we publish this in full below:
“The permanence of peace in Northern Ireland depends on the fulfilment of our Christian duties towards all the members of our community. The Semon on the Mount, the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Last Judgment scene in Matthew 25, make the essential and necessary demands on all, especially on leaders in the community.
“Partnership, co-operation, healing the hurts of the past and building confidence, trust and good neighbourly relations for the future, must be the aims of our political and social activity as Christians. Every statement and action made by politicians and community leaders should be positively tuned in to promote these four aims, healing confidence-building, co-operating and partnership, for the common good of all.. ..”
“Fascism terrifies the people in the two sides of the community and prevents trust between Catholics and Protestants. The hostility of the IRA and their political followers to the RUC and the Patten Report aggravated this division between Catholics and Protestants. An opportunity for unity was lost this year in the failure to honour and respect the 302 RUC men and women who were murdered, and the almost 9, 000 who were severely injured, defending the Catholic and Protestant parts of the community. Even the Patten Report itself inexplicably failed to pay a sufficient, decent and detailed tribute to the dead and wounded. I and the majority of Catholics support the Patten Report, but I would suggest that two names can be used – “RUC” and “The Northern Ireland Police Service” – and the Cap badge should be kept to make the relatives of the dead and wounded officers feel that their suffering and sacrifice was not forgotten and unrecognised.
“It is sincere gestures such as these which are necessary to unite this small community. The IRA do not feel the need to show genuine sympathy, mercy and good will to the victims and relatives of many people murdered and wounded by the IRA, including about 800 Catholics – for the majority of persons in Northern Ireland there was no war, just a nasty civil conflict which abolished Sunningdale in 1973 and killed for 23 years to get less than Sunningdale, leaving leaders still working a power process and not a real peace process.
“There has been enough of protest and airing of grievances in a hostile way. What ordinary people and their families want is positive co-operation and good will with their neighbours, first in the local district and then in power-sharing at provincial level. The “Acorn” principle is all important in politics – “All politics are local politics” – and we begin and build with our local neighbours. We co-operate, show generosity and respect for religious and political points of view – we must, as Archbishop Eames and Bishop Mahaffy strongly reminded us at their diocesan synod, put an end to sectarianism in thought, word and action. The people who live in Northern Ireland must achieve this in a strong resolve to change old nasty habits and traditions of domination and provocation.
“The charter for living together in peace and patient understanding and forgiveness comes from the highest source, God the Father, speaking as the father of the Prodigal Son. “All I have is yours”. We must be compassionate and kind towards our neighbour, especially if “that brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found”. In the small area of Northern Ireland that deep generous sense of sharing is essential. All we have that we consider worthy and admirable in our traditions we want to share with our neighbours while respecting and admiring what they hold dear. Often indeed on the local level of farming and village life that principle “all I have is yours” is manifested. Like the Acorn it must grow in larger districts, to county level, to provincial level and to the areas of the whole island of Ireland – an attitude of love and forgiveness and celebration of genuine good feeling and sharing. In this way the fear of being insulted, the dread of being attacked, of being treated in a hostile way, could be ended
“What the Catholic people of Northern Ireland long to see is Republicanism shine forth as in its original meaning in France, America and 1798 in Ireland, seeing each person as of equal value in basic human rights under God, eschewing monarchy and aristrocracy, recognising only an aristocracy of ability, virtue and service – “All I have is yours”. It is of the utmost importance that whatever steps are necessary, whatever gestures are requisite, whatever sacrifices are demanded of Irishmen individually or in groups, the moral unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter should be re-established by the safety of non-physical force republicanism. That would give all Irish Republicans something holy to celebrate at the grave in Bodenstown of Wolfe Tone, author of that long hoped for formula of Irish Unity, a unity of hearts – in common purpose and justice.
“One sign of this unity that would concretise that unity would be an unarmed Police Service of young Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter men and women with a dynamic of Human Rights and of compassion for the poor in the difficulties of today’s life. That would reassure all of us of balance and fair play.”
APPENDIX C: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON SPEAKERS
Alex Attwood, MLA, is an SDLP member of the new NI Assembly for West Belfast, elected following the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, in June 1998. Prior to his election to the Assembly he served on Belfast City Council.(1985- ), and was leader of the SDLP group on the council from 1993-1995 and from 1997 to the present. He was nominated to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin which sat from 1994-1996, and was part of the SDLP negotiation team at the Stormont talks held from 1996 to 1998 which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement. A practising solicitor, he was educated at St. Malachy’s College and Queen’s University Belfast, and was President of the QUB Students’ Union from 1982-83.
Bairbre de Brun, MLA, is a Sinn Fein member of the new Northern Ireland Assembly, elected in June 1998 for West Belfast. At the time of this talk she was Assembly party spokesperson on policing and justice, and was appointed Minister for Health on the formation of the new power-sharing Executive in December 1999. She served as Sinn Fein cultural affairs spokesperson in the late 1980s, and was the party’s international secretary from 1990-1996. Bairbre de Brun was educated in Dublin (UCD) and Belfast (QUB) and was former teacher of languages in Rathmore Grammar School, Belfast, and later at Northern Ireland’s first Irish language secondary school.
James Leslie, MLA, is a UUP Assembly member in the new Northern Ireland Assembly, elected in June 1998 representing North Antrim. He is party spokesman on social development and formerly served in the UDR from 1976-1978.
Dr. Martin Mansergh: Special Adviser to the Taoiseach and Head of Research, Fianna Fail, since 1981. His father Nicholas Mansergh was well-known historian and expert on Anglo-Irish relations, author of The Irish Question and many other books. Dr. Martin Mansergh entered the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in 1974 and joined the Taoiseach’s Department in 1981. Special adviser to Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern. He was nominated with Fr. Alex Reid and Rev. Roy Magee as a winner of the 1995 Tipperary Peace Prize for his role in the peace process. He has published a number of articles on the peace process and related Irish historical subjects.
Brendan O’Brien: Senior reporter with RTE current affairs: worked on Seven Days, Today Tonight and Prime Time. Jacob’s Award winner for investigative journalism, especially on drugs and serious crime. Reported on all aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict since 1974. Author of two books on the IRA: The Long War and A Pocket History of the IRA.
Meath Peace Group Report. 2000. (c) Meath Peace Group
Transcribed by Julitta Clancy and Sarah Clancy from videotapes taken by Anne Nolan. Edited by Julitta Clancy.