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30 July 1998 Edition

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Report proposes ``cosmetic change'' to RUC

By Sean O'Tuama

A British House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report on the future of the RUC, published on Monday 27 July, has been blasted by Sinn Fein's Assembly member, Bairbre de Brun, as ``woefully inadequate'' and ``deeply flawed''. De BrĂșn that the proposals in the report would lead only to ``cosmetic change'' in the force.

The committee, which is made up of Unionist, SDLP, British Labour and Tory MPs, stated that without radical change it would take thirty years for the RUC to become representative of the people in the north.

However the recommendations in the report proposed the most minimal of change. It ruled out any change of name for the RUC and warned that any reform would cause tensions within the force.

Two recommendations, which were not endorsed unanimously, indicate the limit of real change envisaged by the group. One of these is that no Union Jacks be flown from RUC barracks on the 12th of July and the other is that new recruits to the force will be prohibited from being members of the Orange Order or the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but existing members of the RUC only have to register their allegiance to the loyalist orders.

Bairbre de Brun commented: ``The RUC is unacceptable to nationalists. That is the reality. This report fails to address in any substantive way any of the critical issues relating to policing. The issue of policing is more than one simply of imagery. It is not nationalist imagination which has conjured up a force which is deeply hostile and sectarian, and whose members have killed and brutalised with the protection of British law.''

She added that it was ``amazing'' that the authors of the report failed to address the issue of RUC collusion with loyalist death squads. Citing the thousands of RUC files which have ended up in loyalist hands, the Stalker/Sampson enquiry, the Stevens report, the UN report on RUC intimidation of solicitors and the plethora of investigations by human rights groups condemning the RUC, she asked: ``Do the authors not think that these are factors which help form an attitude to this force?''

The report, which is not legally binding, will be submitted to the Independent Policing Commission which is to be set up as a result of the Good Friday document.

De Brun warned that if the Commission took the same approach as the report then it will have failed in the critical task of creating ``a new police service that can enjoy widespread support from, and is seen as an integral part of, the community as a whole'' as stated in the Good Friday document.

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