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7 October 1999 Edition

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Flanagan undermines Patten Report

Last weekend, RUC boss Ronnie Flanagan used the platform of the Young Unionist conference to put a gun to the head of the British government over the implementation of the Patten report.

Flanagan threatened to resign as chief constable if the RUC's numbers were reduced, as recommended by Patten.

That Flanagan used a platform provided by the Young Unionists, the most rabidly right wing and anti-Good Friday Agreement grouping in the political spectrum of the Six Counties, to make a higly political statement, speaks volumes about his agenda.

Indeed, David Trimble, who also spoke at the conference, was treated in such a belligerent manner that the raw edge of unionist aggression was clearly on show.

Although, initially and tactically welcoming Patten's report, Flanagan has since been involved in a subtle strategy aimed at blocking its implementation and in the process has set out to hamstring the British government.

He has engaged in a process of disseminating disinformation in the media - no doubt through the Special Branch of which he was once head - and has claimed that dissident republicans, who he alleges are growing in numbers, are planning ``spectaculars''. All of this is aimed at preserving the RUC.

However, Flanagan's strategy should be a warning that the influence wielded by the RUC Chief Constable, even were Patten implemented, is crucial to the future behaviour of the RUC.

Specifically, there is a veto on any examination of his operational decisions by the proposed Police Board, as he can appeal directly to the British Secretary of State or to the First Minister.

Secondly, throughout the Patten Report, many changes are ``subject to security assessment'' - both on the ground and in the courts.

qFlanagan's threat to resign if his assessments are not heeded is a direct attack on the Patten Report.

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