The Journal of History     Winter 2004    TABLE OF CONTENTS

British Breaking Their
Own Laws On Police Reform

Author unknown
Originally published between February 18th and 20th, 2001

A major row is brewing over the recruitment drive being launched by the British government for the police service to replace the discredited RUC, the 'Police Service of Northern Ireland' (PSNI). The surprise move has come as critical negotiations on police reform are reaching a climax and before the legally required structures have been set up.

"We are certain that if [RUC police chief] Ronnie Flanagan is saying he is recruiting to a new policing service, then he is doing so illegally," Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has said. "What this amounts to is a recruitment drive for the RUC."

The Sinn Fein spokesperson on policing was speaking following revelations that the new recruiting advertisement campaign contravenes British law. According to the recently passed British Police Bill, RUC Chief 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, a vital overseeing body 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 Fein president Gerry Adams on Tuesday night. "No democrat, never mind a republican or nationalist, could advise anyone to join the RUC," said the Sinn Fein president. "On the contrary, Sinn Fein 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."

Northern Secretary John Reid later claimed there was "no other option" but to start recruiting, because otherwise there would not be enough officers for the planned reforms.

But Reid also appears to be acting in breach of the law which he is claiming to implement. He is required under the existing legislation to consult with the Police Board, Equality Commission and other bodies before embarking on any police recruitment campaign.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has urged nationalists and republicans not to sign up in the recruitment drive.

The West Belfast MP said: "If this recruitment campaign comes into being, it will be seen as a signal that the British Government has given up on the search for a new policing service."

"Given that this is recruitment to an old force, no democrat would want to be a part of this."

"Policing is such an important issue, such a central issue, it needs to be got right, and the responsibility lies with the British Government to get it right."

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