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The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): In calling this amendment, I should point out that if this amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 2 to 7 because of pre-emption.
I have said before that many aspects of Patten are to be welcomed and many are by no means objectionable. However, the few aspects which I find objectionable I find deeply objectionable. Those deeply objectionable aspects are only so because they are founded on misinformation, false logic and a misinterpretation of the Belfast agreement.
A point of misinformation is that young Catholics will not join the police service as they find its current title offensive. If that is true, why in the period between what paramilitaries term the "cessation of military operations" and the suspension of recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, did Catholic applications to the police double from 11 per cent to 22 per cent?
That figure of 22 per cent is only the start. However it is clearly an impressive start and one not precipitated by any name change or name alteration. That fact should not be ignored. It should be given due weight in any discussion on the future name of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Exactly what is offensive about the title "Royal Ulster Constabulary"? Is it the fact that that name is associated with a police force that has protected both Catholics and Protestant people in Northern Ireland, providing that thin green line throughout 30 years of terrorism? I think not. So, it must be the "Royal" prefix. Are we to believe that young Catholic Irish men and women will not join a police service in Northern Ireland because it has a "Royal" prefix? The Republic of Ireland has many organisations that contain a "Royal" prefix. I have heard no reports of them experiencing recruitment problems because of that. There is no shortage of sailors at the Royal Cork Yacht Club; architects at the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland; or surgeons at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. There is no shortage of physicians at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, possibly only a shortage of beds at the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook. Indeed, there is no problem of people failing to attend events at the Royal Dublin Society.
In the past, the Royal Irish Constabulary attracted Catholic recruits despite its name, as some may now suggest. Of course, the Royal Irish Constabulary began to suffer recruitment problems only when intimidation of its members became prevalent. If it is now clear that the prefix is not the central cause of the low number of Catholic applications to the police, an alternative cause must exist. That brings us to the central and widespread problem of intimidation.
For a long time young Catholics have been intimidated into not joining the police. Now, to a lesser extent, illustrated by the doubling of applications, that intimidation continues. The eradication of such intimidation and disbandment of paramilitary organisations will precipitate the continuing increase in Catholic applicants to become police officers in Northern Ireland and create the police service we all desire; one that reflects the community it polices in all its areas.
The principle of consent is central to the Belfast agreement. Northern Ireland shall remain within the United Kingdom while the majority so desire. Northern Ireland is not state neutral, neither is the police. It is not unreasonable to maintain the name "The Royal Ulster Constabulary" because it is a British police force. However, our amendment offers more. It offers a new name that recognises the importance of the RUC, a double-barrelled name that symbolises something new and one that both communities in Northern Ireland should support. I beg to move.
Lord Desai: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 2 and others tabled in my name in this grouping. At Second Reading I stated that, unlike many other noble Lords who spoke, I like the Patten report and would like to see it fully implemented. I do not believe that it is one-sided. It is a well worked out compromise. Fully implementing the Patten report is part of implementing the Good Friday agreement.
I have said before in this place that the situation in Northern Ireland is very peculiar. Although the events are taking place within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government in a post-colonial situation, we are in an international context. The Good Friday agreement is an international treaty and we are bound to implement it, as we agreed to, with the Republic of Ireland. I am sure that Members of the Committee hardly need reminding that the Republic implemented its part of the bargain and changed its constitution. Therefore, one cannot say that this is a one-sided agreement.
Perhaps I may make one or two comments about the principles at stake. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, is right that a principle of consent is part of the crux of the matter in Northern Ireland. Nothing in the Bill or in my amendment detracts from that principle of consent. But there are other principles outlined in the Good Friday agreement. One is that we should recognise the right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish, British or both. Another is that the agreement will guarantee parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.
We have to strike a good balance. I agree that it is puzzling for people to object to the word "Royal" in the title of a police force within the jurisdiction of Her Majesty's Government. However, that has been part of the problem for the past 70 to 80 years. That is why we have been fighting this particular half-battle, half-truce in Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is not possible for us to say that we can forget about all that.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan--I concede he has more first-hand knowledge of this matter than I do--stated that young Catholics would be willing to join the service. On 11th June an opinion poll in the Sunday Times stated that 72 per cent of Catholics agreed that the RUC name should be changed to the Northern Ireland Police Service.
The differences are pretty straightforward. The present formulation tries to straddle both alternatives. I say we must make a clean break. We must call the new service the Police Service of Northern Ireland. That incorporates the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as my amendment says. But we have to have a clean break and go to a new era, a new regime in which all the parties agree to co-operate, as they did with the Good Friday agreement.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I greatly regret than an inescapable duty in Middle Temple, where I hold an office, will prevent me from playing as much of a part in today's proceedings as I should like. It makes me all the more glad that these amendments appear first on the Marshalled List.
It is always helpful at the outset of any discussion to try to identify the common ground, and it is not difficult to find the common ground that unites us all in this Chamber today; that is, that we all want to see more Catholics proportionately represented in the RUC. We all recognise that they are at present in the minority. The question is how we achieve that proportionality. The reasons for the present situation are too plain to need stating.
The Government's proposal for a new name in place of the RUC is designed to bring more Catholics in and to do it, so the argument goes, by removing something which at present keeps them out. But is that a sound argument? And even if it is, will the resulting pain and resentment running over into a loss of confidence be worthwhile? We need to be fair about this. For my part I am prepared to concede that there have been times, fortunately now long distant, when the RUC--not altogether unintentionally--was associated with the Protestant majority. We do not need to dwell on the reasons. It was harmful and it was wrong. In those days that would have deterred many a well-qualified Catholic from wanting to join.
But the driving factors for Catholic antipathy in those days were these: the political control; the management; the make-up of the RUC; and, it has to be said, on occasions the conduct of individual members. I suggest that the name itself scarcely signified, any more than the prefix "Royal" signifies today in those institutions in the Republic which were alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. Today, it is surely common ground that those blemishes are things of the past. The old political control of operational decisions has gone; the management of the RUC is quite transformed. Nobody today argues that there is sectarian favouritism. As for the conduct of the RUC, we need only need go back to the television pictures of the RUC standing eyeball to eyeball against the Orangemen at Drumcree year after year, losing in one year one officer who was murdered and scores more being gravely injured, to realise how the RUC today upholds its duty of impartiality. That is to say nothing of its record of this past 30 years of violence.
I would argue therefore that there has already been a new beginning of great significance to policing in Northern Ireland, and that is before one takes on board the fact that 85 per cent of Patten's recommendations are already implemented or in the pipeline to be so.
So what is it that still keeps Catholics away? How much, if anything, is it the name? Again, one cannot dispute that it plays some part, but I believe that it is a tiny, residual part. Much more serious is the part played by the failure--or is it the refusal?--of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, regrettably, to endorse service in the RUC as a worthy calling for a good Catholic. Much more is represented by the failure--or is it the refusal?--of leaders of the SDLP to urge membership of the RUC as a proper thing for good nationalists, as so many nationalists have already shown. Likewise--it has already been alluded to--is the part played by intimidation, not only of the candidate for the RUC who happens to be a Catholic, but of his or her family with dire consequences. What a difference the removal of all those factors would make in bringing us forward to what all of us in this Chamber tonight desire.
Today we must balance against a possible gain of slight proportion, the great wound to serving and past members of the RUC and to their families that will be caused by amputating their force's name and, as it were, chucking it into the waste bin as though it were some gangrenous material. The foundation proposed by the Bill is welcome and is a salve. I hope it will be fortified by a Royal Charter. Of course the name will live on in the RUC Widows Association; that cannot be taken away. But the trauma and pain will be very real, as will the consequential resentment and loss of confidence, which we can well do without. For my part, I feel it is quite disproportionate to any gain that we may reasonably expect in persuading more Catholics to join the RUC.
In conclusion, I realise--and I shall not forget this as the debates continue--that the Chief Constable of the RUC expressed the view that his men and women desire above all things for this issue to be brought to
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