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Lord Glentoran: I too rise to support Amendment No. 1. My name is attached to Amendment No. 6 which proposes a slightly different solution. However, my arguments are that the republican and nationalist movements have, through the peace agreement, agreed to serve and take part in the government at Stormont for governing Northern Ireland, a Province of the United Kingdom. When I met with their representatives, I was told that they want ownership, in real terms, of the police so that their constituency can feel comfortable and at home with the people whose job it is to police their communities.
That is all very worthy. But if they want ownership and if they are prepared to take an active sharing part in the governance of Northern Ireland, then they should be prepared to give and take in the things that really matter to their communities as much as does the Unionist community.
Let us not forget that the peace agreement, almost on the first page, states that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom while consensus for that remains; in other words, while a majority of people want it to be so. That indicates that more than 50 per cent of the people living in Northern Ireland want that to be and want to have a share of the police force.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, have made clear the non-effect on recruitment of Roman Catholics, nationalists and republicans into the police force as a result of the name. The name is a symbol and a part of history. It is to be hoped that the new name will become an integral part of history. I believe that for the peace process to continue--and I put it as seriously as that--a balance, a compromise, must be arrived at or a brave, courageous and firm line must be taken by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that there is seen to be a fairness and compromise in the naming of the new police force.
Not only are the members of the force excited about this part of the Bill; so are the electorate. They are those people who make up that 54 per cent; those people who did not vote for the Unionist party in South Antrim who are, what one might term, the soft, moderate, sensible, well off, middle-class of Ulster unionism. Those people feel very strongly, and I make the point to the Minister that we on this side of the Committee believe that there must be a compromise which in some way reclaims in part the name RUC GC or similar.
For a good many years, together with Free Church and Roman Catholic leaders in Liverpool, I met twice a year with our opposite numbers in Belfast and Glasgow. I understand the deep feelings about the symbolism of the name and the badge of the RUC; the deep but different feelings held both in the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities. In the Protestant community, there is pride in the record of the RUC, often one of very great cost, and the change of name may seem to denigrate that record. But if I were part of that Protestant community in Northern Ireland I would want to build on all that is good about that history. Most of all I would want to know that the rule of law should run throughout the Province. I would know too well that the RUC was not accepted as "our" police service in many parts of the Catholic community.
In Britain, we have always believed that the rule of law needs mutual co-operation between public and the police. When that trust breaks down, citizens cease to think of the police as "our" police service. The issue of recruiting, mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, and others, follows--but it is not the only one--from confidence in "our" police force. Will citizens come forward as witnesses when there exists the crucial issue of whether or not they trust the police force as "our" police force and when people even start to talk of an army of occupation? We know that all that has happened in substantial parts of Northern Ireland.
In debates in this House in June or July last year some noble Lords spoke of the innocent being made to suffer along with the guilty. Which of us is innocent in Northern Ireland and in Northern Ireland history? It is not the English who brought in a community of settlers, giving them unjust advantages in employment, land and law. No, none of us can claim to be innocent. We need a fresh start which will win the assent of the whole community to the rule of law and the agents who enforce it.
We had an example in Liverpool. It is not quite the same but there is sufficient parallel to make it worth quoting. After the Toxteth riots in 1981, leaders in the Liverpool black community approached Church leaders asking whether we would help them to establish a law centre. They had not believed that policing was even-handed. In all our discussions, a simple hope led us forward; that this deprived community could come to see that the law could be a friend. It would have been a tremendous change. That hope needed to grow if, crucially, people were to give evidence and if black police officers were to be recruited.
Let us suppose that I had been brought up in the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland and that I had felt moved to become a police officer. Would my friends believe that I was joining "our" police service; that the law could now be a friend? Or would old memories that the RUC was really part of the Protestant community override that? If I had been brought up in the Catholic community, I would know that for many people the name and the badge have been regarded with great hurt.
Patten was right; there has to be a fresh beginning for policing that the whole community can accept. There is a lot of compromise about Patten and about this Bill. Unionists have often said that they want closer ties with Britain; the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, twice spoke today about Northern Ireland being an integral part of the United Kingdom. Yes, it seems to me to follow that the Northern Ireland police service should be placed on the same basis as other police forces in the United Kingdom. One does not have a Royal Metropolitan Police, with all the costs that it has suffered, or a Royal Merseyside Police. That title belongs to an old situation and Northern Ireland urgently needs a new beginning for the rule of law to be accepted in all parts of the community.
Lord Monson: Before the noble Lord sits down, will he accept that public opinion polls in Northern Ireland have revealed that the majority of Roman Catholics do not object to the title Royal Ulster Constabulary? They may not be madly enthusiastic about it but they are not particularly opposed either. There are those who are opposed but they represent well under 20 per cent of the entire population.
Lord Sheppard of Liverpool: I do not know from where the noble Lord has obtained his figure. My advice is that it is a cause of very real and wide offence in the Catholic community in Northern Ireland.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: We are in danger, as we often are, of subjecting ourselves to the tyranny of the minority and forgetting the majority. The majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for the peace agreement because they believed that there would be peace. They are still in a situation in which, if the noble Lord, Lord Sheppard, will forgive me, many innocent victims are having to suffer the law of the paramilitaries and are unable to have recourse to where they should be able to go because the paramilitaries have decreed that no one may work for the RUC or join it. That is where the problem lies. Catholics have never had a problem in wanting to enter the RUC but they have a problem with the consequences for themselves and their families.
I cannot understand why we are constantly concerned about the wishes of the paramilitaries. A majority of the population--I am sorry to say it, but there is still a majority--want things to go on so that there will be law and order. The RUC has signally succeeded in providing that law and order: whether it confronts loyalists or anybody else, it has performed that duty.
One of the big problems so far is that IRA/Sinn Fein will not endorse even the new service. It wants the whole of the RUC, whatever its title, to be abolished and its own people's police. One cannot expect the majority to contemplate that with calm. The SDLP, according to press reports--I shall be happy if the noble and learned Lord is able to contradict me--has said that it will not join the police authority if invited
It was expressly said in the Belfast agreement that all parties acknowledged the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems, including the title which that force has had since its inception. That body, and the majority of ordinary people in Northern Ireland, believe that the retention of the reference to the Crown is one of the very few indications (I am sorry to say) that they, let alone Dublin, recognise that Northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom. It is a very important symbol to them. If we are to respect the symbols of the other side, why can we not respect the symbols of the vast majority, particularly since many honourable and brave Catholic members of the RUC wish that force to succeed, prosper and behave well, as it has done.
We should not allow ourselves to be manoeuvred by the excellent media tactics of the paramilitaries into depriving the country of its due, which is law and order and a proper and well supported police force. As my noble and learned friend said, the RUC has already done most of the things that really matter in the community which Patten wanted. I hope that the Committee will help the RUC to retain its title and not allow itself to be manoeuvred into giving it up as yet one more minor concession. It is not a minor concession but a major symbol.
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