Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

22 February 2001 Edition

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It's an RUC con job

Flanagan's recruitment drive is illegal

``We are certain that if Ronnie Flanagan is saying he is recruiting to a new policing service, then he is doing so illegally,'' Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has told An Phoblacht. ``What this amounts to is a recruitment drive for the RUC.''

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing was speaking following revelations that the RUC Chief Constable's new recruiting advertisement campaign contravenes British law. According to the recently passed British Police Bill, much vaunted by Flanagan himself, he must consult with a number of bodies prior to the launching of a recruitment campaign for any new policing service.

Among these bodies is the Police Board, which has yet to be set up due to the failure to reach agreement on the future of policing within the Six Counties. Without the approval of this board, Flanagan's unilateral decision to launch a recruitment campaign for a `new service' is illegal. Kelly said that this is a deliberate attempt by the RUC to mislead young people.

``Ronnie Flanagan's claims to be recruiting for a new policing service are illegal according to his own laws,'' Kelly said. ``If, on the other hand, he is recruiting to the RUC, then he should say so up front.

``He should tell young nationalists and republicans that he is recruiting for a discredited force that has been denounced on many occasions by human rights organisations throughout the world. Flanagan is recruiting for the RUC - for a paramilitary sectarian force.''

Kelly was echoing comments made by the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams on Tuesday night. ``No democrat, never mind a republican or nationalist, could advise anyone to join the RUC,'' said the Sinn Féin president. ``On the contrary, Sinn Féin will be advising people not to join or support this recruitment drive to what is an old and discredited force.'' The SDLP's Seamus Mallon described Flanagan's actions as ``premature''.


Short shrift for Brit ads

An attempted British Army recruitment drive in nationalist areas of Belfast was brought to an abrupt halt this week after an angry response from local people.

The ads were posted throughout North and West Belfast last Thursday night, 15 February, but by Friday night the offensive posters were removed.

Sinn Féin offices were inundated with calls from incensed local people.

New Lodge Sinn Féin councillor Gerard Brophy said that one ad placed on the Antrim Road was ``within a couple of hundred yards of where the British Army shot and killed a local youth, Peter McBride. It is an insult to his family and to this community that the British Army would dare try to recruit in this area.''


Policing is crucial for republicans


Charm offensives have been a lost cause in nationalist and republican areas, because the friendly bobby on a billboard bears no resemblance to the gun-wielding bigot that is his everyday Six-County alter ego
Ronnie Flanagan's new advertisement campaign is not only an attempt to recruit directly into an unreconstructed RUC, it is also illegal.

Flanagan is peddling another spin on a by now familiar RUC tactic - the `charm offensive'. The RUC is again being depicted as a forward-looking, cross-community service, in the same way as the old adverts depicting the jolly RUC bobby smiling in his short sleeved shirt - the type that might engage in such benign activities as helping old ladies across roads rather than helping to target them for assassination.

The reality, as we know, is that charm offensives have been a lost cause in nationalist and republican areas, because the friendly bobby on a billboard bears no resemblance to the gun-wielding bigot that is his everyday Six-County alter ego.

The difference in the charm offensive this time around is, firstly, that Flanagan has a new name to conjure with, `the Police Service of Northern Ireland', and plenty of thus-far unfounded hype about a `new beginning' to policing to bolster his campaign.

Secondly, and most significantly, the new RUC recruitment campaign is also illegal - according to British law. Under the terms of reference of the British Police Act, Flanagan is not entitled to launch a recruitment campaign without prior consultation with a number of bodies, including the policing board provided for in the Act. This policing board has not yet been set up, so either the new campaign is simply illegal or else it's a not-so-new recruitment campaign for an unchanged RUC.

In relation to the estabishment of a new policing service in the Six Counties, the Good Friday Agreement also contradicts Flanagan's assertion that this is the new policing service the people voted for. The GFA states in its Policing and Justice section:

``The participants believe it essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms to human rights norms...arrangements should be capable of delivering a policing service, in constructive and inclusive partnerships with the community at all levels, and with the maximum delegation and responsibility, consistent with the foregoing principles. These arrangements... should be unambiguously accepted and actively supported by the entire community.''

Even with a cursory glance at this paragraph, it doesn't take a legal genius to realise that Ronnie Flanagan is engaged in a classic case of false advertisement. The terms of reference are clear: any new policing service established under the auspices of the Good Friday Agreement must be ``unambiguously accepted and actively supported by the entire community''. It is ``essential'' that it is free from ``partisan political control'' and that it is formed ``in constructive and inclusive partnerships with the community at all levels, and with the maximum delegation of responsibility''.

Advertising for recruitment to a new policing service, established under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is not only premature but is also the illegal propagation of an unquestionable lie.

Sinn Féin is currently seeking legal advice on the matter.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, addressing the Frank Stagg memorial lecture in County Mayo on Sunday, gave voice to the mounting frustration amongst republicans.

``The entire Agreement and the process of its implementation have been warped to accommodate unionist opposition. It is totally unacceptable to republicans that almost three years after Good Friday 1998, we have an Agreement that is only partially implemented and a process which is limping from crisis to crisis.

``Many republicans feel a deep sense of frustration. I share their disquiet.''

That disquiet has been intensified by the predication of any political progress, yet again, upon the security, or lack thereof, of UUP leader David Trimble's political career. Already, a provisional date for finalising talks on a policing deal has been set by the British and Dublin governments at this Friday week, 2 March, when a North-South Ministerial Council meeting is due to take place.

In the absence of a deal, David Trimble, delivering yet another ultimatum, has said that he will not nominate Six-County Sinn Féin ministers Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún to attend. Despite this, and their frustration, as expressed by Ó Caoláin, at the slow pace of progress, Sinn Féin have expressed a willingness to take their time in reaching a resolution to the policing issue.

While some papers have attempted to portray it as a ploy for the forthcoming Westminister elections, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty's statement that his party is prepared to take 12 months or more to resolve the issue is far from an electoral ploy. It is also an assertion that should not create division between the SDLP, the Dublin Government and Sinn Féin in their stance on policing. Ultimatums from David Trimble, or anyone else, should not be the basis on which the future of policing in the Six Counties is decided. And, in the context of 80 years of corrupt, sectarian `policing' in the Six Counties, spending a few months to finally get it right is hardly an unreasonable request.

The policing issue is far from resolved. It raises questions fundamental to the peace process - about the committment of the British Government to the Good Friday Agreement, about the willingness of that government to allow the Irish people to create the new society envisaged by that agreement and about the ability of this current phase of struggle to deliver the radical political change required to bring peace to Irish society.

Republicans are angry, not out of some sectional interest. Republicans are angry because the good faith of republicans who signed up to an Agreement that was not of their making and the good faith of pro-Agreement voters from all sections of Ireland are being disregarded by the British establishment.

What Ronnie Flanagan is currently recruiting for is not the new police service envisaged under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, but a newly branded RUC. Flanagan's wolf in sheep's clothing will fail in the same way as every previous RUC publicity stunt.

An Phoblacht
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