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10 February 2005 Edition

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A suitable job for an ex-RUC chief?

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

Former RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan has been awarded a top job inspecting police forces in England, Wales and the Six Counties.

Flanagan will be paid £189,000 annually to act as 'Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary'.

Flanagan served as head of the RUC, and later the PSNI, from 1996 to 2001. Previously he headed the Special Branch in the Six Counties, which stands accused of implementing much of Britain's collusion policy in Ireland.

In 2002, he became the only person from the North ever to receive a GBE (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire), for his work in overseeing the name change of the RUC to PSNI.

However, he is remembered by nationalist communities for much more than the rebranding of an unchanged police force.

The murky dealings of Flanagan stretch back as far as 1989 and the murder of Pat Finucane. The Special Branch was believed to have been involved in organising Finucane's death and Flanagan held a high position in the branch at the time.

Former RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan has been awarded a top job inspecting police forces in England, Wales and the Six Counties.

Flanagan will be paid £189,000 annually to act as 'Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary'.

Flanagan served as head of the RUC, and later the PSNI, from 1996 to 2001. Previously he headed the Special Branch in the Six Counties, which stands accused of implementing much of Britain's collusion policy in Ireland.

In 2002, he became the only person from the North ever to receive a GBE (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire), for his work in overseeing the name change of the RUC to PSNI.

However, he is remembered by nationalist communities for much more than the rebranding of an unchanged police force.

The murky dealings of Flanagan stretch back as far as 1989 and the murder of Pat Finucane. The Special Branch was believed to have been involved in organising Finucane's death and Flanagan held a high position in the branch at the time.

However, it was his appointment as Chief Constable in 1996 that brought the first clear indication of his attitude to Northern nationalists.

In 1995, a stand-off developed between Orangemen and residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road over the route of an Orange march. Flanagan, deputy chief constable at the time, was involved in the mediations, which saw a compromise reached allowing a token parade. Following this, Flanagan gave a personal assurance that there would be no more parades without the permission of the Garvaghy residents. However, in 1996, the new Chief Constable allowed a march to be forced down the road, leading to serious street disturbances and beginning three years of violent disputes at Drumcree. Flanagan later claimed that no assurance had been given, despite been presented with transcripts by the Mediation Network which showed this to be a lie.

Flanagan's failings as a police chief are too long to list. Suffice to say, he was and still is renowned in nationalist communities for his see-no-evil, hear-no-evil philosophy.

This was evident in the case of David Adams, brutally assaulted in Castlereagh interrogation centre in 1994. Adams was awarded £30,000 in 1998 after it was proved his cell door was left open to allow RUC officers to take turns to run in and aim martial arts kicks at his legs until one broke. Flanagan who had served as Duty Inspector himself in Castlereagh in 1978, did not feel inclined to suspend the officers involved. Nor did Flanagan see fit to suspend the officers in his force who watched as Robert Hamill was kicked to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown in 1997.

A renowned spin doctor, he kept his cool when explaining why he had allowed these officers to remain on the streets of the Six Counties.

He did lose his cool however, when in a Panorama interview with journalist John Ware in 2002, he was asked why he had told the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param Cumaras-wamy, that some lawyers in the North were "working for a paramilitary agenda".

Flanagan, of course, denied he had ever made the remark, but his attitude to solicitors and lawyers was already well known.

In his report, released in 2004, Canadian Judge Peter Cory said that the security services in the Six Counties regarded human rights solicitors like Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson as close "associates" of the IRA and that this went right to the top of the police and included the former chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan.

More recently, Flanagan has been severely criticised for his investigation into the Omagh bombing, which the Special Branch is alleged to have known about in advance, and for his attacks on police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, who singled him out for blame when examining the investigation.

Flanagan's record in policing speaks for itself.

And so does the decision by the British establishment to appoint him to his new role of 'Chief Inspector'.

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