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24 September 1998 Edition

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Sinn Fein launch Patten submission

Victims tell why a new police service is needed

Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice, Bairbre de Brun launched the party's submission to the Independent Commission on Policing at Stormont on Wednesday morning, 23 September.

They were accompanied by three victims of RUC brutality: Liam Shannon, who was one of the `hooded men' tortured by the RUC in 1971, Jim McCabe, whose wife was murdered by the RUC in 1981, and Rosaleen Walsh whose 13-year-old daughter was badly disfigured after being shot in the face with a plastic bullet by an RUC man in 1997.

Every single person needed to bring their ideas on and experiences with the RUC forward to the commission, Adams said. It was time for the RUC to admit culpability in order to ``leave the mistakes of the past behind and effectively remove the causes of conflict.''

``If the Good Friday document is really to herald a new future then a new police force is needed,'' he said. ``If we are truly into a new political dispensation then just as the old Stormont is unacceptable, the old RUC is not acceptable. There can be no fudges or cosmetic tinkering.

``The history of the RUC and its primary role in this conflict mean that a new, unarmed and accountable police force is a central issue at the heart of resolving the conflict.

``The RUC doesn't fulfill any of the criteria laid out in the Good Friday document. It is the armed paramilitary wing of unionism. It has routinely violated, often on a massive scale, the rights of nationalists. Despite 30 years of the RUC and the violation of human rights nationalists are law-abiding, tax paying and decent. They want a policing service they can trust. It is worth noting that anti-social behaviour is less than in almost any other society in the world.''

Ms de Brun said that the job of the Policing Commission, headed by ex-Tory MP Chris Patten was to ``inquire into policing and as a result of findings propose new arrangements.'' She added that following the countless findings against the British government and RUC over human rights abuses by International and European Bodies, the Bennet, Stalker-Sampson and Stevens inquiries must come into the open and be taken into account.

Rosaleen Walsh said, ``my daughter was returning home from a disco, an RUC landrover pulled up and an RUC man armed with a plastic bullet gun got out. He aimed the gun at the back of my daughter's head and laughed. My daughter turned her head and he fired into her mouth.''

``I have been told that the RUC man who shot my daughter couldn't be traced,'' said Rosaleen, ``and 14 months later and no one has been charged with deliberately shooting my daughter.''

Ms Walsh added that she refused to participate in the RUC's own inquiry because she was unable trust them.

She said, ``there is no dispute that my daughter was injured by a plastic bullet and no dispute that she was shot by the RUC. How many RUC men can fit into a landrover anyway?''

Liam Shannon became known as one of the hooded men when he was subjected to the systematic abuse and torture devised by Brigadier Frank Kitson in 1971, after unionist leader Brian Faulkner signed his internment order.

Mr Shannon said, ``This was no one-off beating. It was systematic abuse and torture sanctioned at the highest level. I want to know who did this and why it was done on me.''

The case of the hooded men came before the European Court of Human Rights in 1974, and in 1976 it ruled that they had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. In 1976 after a successful civil action against the NIO Mr Shannon was awarded substantial damages.

Nora McCabe was a 33-year-old mother with three small children when she was killed by an RUC plastic bullet in 1981. She had been on her way to the shops to buy some cigarettes. The incident was seen by an eyewitness and two Canadian journalists captured the actions of the RUC on film. The film shows an RUC landrover brake and pull over towards Linden Street, followed by a puff of smoke emerging from the window. The streets were empty and there were no petrol bombers.

Despite this evidence the DPP ordered no prosecution and Chief Superintendent James Crutchley, officer in charge of the patrol, was later promoted to Deputy Chief Constable and honoured by the English Queen.

Nora's husband, Jim McCabe said, ``to this day the RUC have denied any knowledge of the events leading up to Nora's death. They have maintained that no RUC personnel were even in the area.''

He said, ``the RUC see themselves as above the law, they can literally commit murder and get away with it. They have shown contempt for my wife, contempt for my children and for the whole community.''

``What message does it send out to our children, to allow your mother's killer to stay in the force and be promoted,'' added Mr McCabe, ``when those who uphold the law break the law, there is no law.''

Mr McCabe said that during the subsequent inquiry the RUC didn't co-operate and didn't give information to the family on what steps they were taking or how the inquiry was going.''

He asked, ``for the person responsible to be identified, those involved in the cover-up to be identified and those who perjured themselves at the inquiry to be brought to book.''

He said, ``I want an admission of guilt.''

Ms de Brun said ``these experiences are not unique. They reflect the wider experiences of the nationalist community and they must be put into the past.''

She said the Patten Commission needed to come up with radical solutions for immediate root and branch change.

``A new police service must be representative and accountable. It must be have an effective monitoring body with British, Irish and Human Rights representatives.''

She added, ``It should be rooted in a localised structure. Quotas are needed to ensure equal composition, there must be human and civil rights training externally monitored. There must be a commitment to local systems of restorative justice.''

Mr Adams added, ``it is about the ownership of our community. Who is going to join the new police force? You are.''

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