Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 67, which has been included in this group. I shall not do so at any great length because I seem to remember making a rather lengthy contribution in Committee. However, what I have to say follows on from what I said earlier when we discussed Amendment No. 5. This is all about building partnerships and trying to get a police force that is acceptable to the whole Province and all the communities within it, yet one which is proud, which has a hat badge that it can wear with pride and which represents all of Ireland and the United Kingdom. For goodness sake, that is what the Good Friday agreement is about.

The three major symbols for Ireland and the United Kingdom are the shamrock--we wear it on St Patrick's Day; the harp, in the national emblems of Ireland and also for Guinness; and, finally, our own Crown. That is what our amendment is about. We do not make any specific requests in this amendment as to what should surround the emblem or what shape it should take; or, indeed, for anything else. However, we say that here is an emblem of which the whole of Ireland can be proud. If the amendment is not accepted, in the light of my last few words when speaking to Amendment No. 5, I shall consider this to be another concession to the republican movement.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, I intervene briefly because I strongly support my noble friend's amendment. I can see no useful purpose, or any good reason, for any change to the cap badge and insignia of the RUC. The Patten report states in paragraph 17.4:

it is a very small minority who support that perception. The report goes on to say:

    "The agreement about symbols is not an argument about policing, but an argument about the constitution".

There is no need to remind your Lordships that Northern Ireland is part of the British constitution. As such, the police force in Northern Ireland should represent the British constitution. It is clear from what has been said that there is a small minority of Irish nationalists and republicans to whom the Government are, once again, making concessions. What about the very large Catholic community and the Protestant community that support the RUC and wish for no change? Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that one of

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1643

the aims of Sinn Fein/IRA has been to destroy the RUC. In my opinion, this Government are doing exactly that.

In my previous intervention I drew to your Lordships' attention that, for any organisation, the loss of its title will lead to low morale and inefficiency. Therefore, to take away its title and change its insignia would destroy all its ethos. It is that very ethos, built up over so many years, that makes the RUC such an effective force. I do not believe that the Government understand in any way what "ethos" means to a police force or for that matter to military units. However, without it, I can assure the Government that such organisations become totally useless. It is for those reasons that I support the amendment.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I do not believe that the strength of the police in Northern Ireland would be weakened by the proposed changes in the way suggested by the noble Lord. The Government do not intend to destroy the police in Northern Ireland; but rather they wish to build on its strengths and give it a "new beginning", as indicated in the Patten report.

Patten said very clearly that there should be a new badge and a symbol so that one could indicate that there was a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland, while respecting the achievements and sacrifices made by the RUC over many years. Surely that is a worthy set of aims. The new beginning will require a new badge, but quite properly the Secretary of State has decided that he will listen to the policing board, among others, and seek its guidance and advice on what it thinks the new badge should comprise. It surely is proper to leave it to people on the policing board from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, from politics and outside politics, to recommend what they consider to be the best way forward with regard to the emblem.

I refer to Amendments Nos. 61A and 63A in which it is suggested that the George Cross, so well deserved and earned by the RUC, should be included in the new emblem. I am not sure that that is a good idea, much as I was pleased when the George Cross was awarded to the RUC for what it had achieved and for the sacrifices of the past. But here we are looking to the future. I should have thought that it would not be appropriate to use the George Cross to symbolise the future but rather as a sign of respect for what has happened in the past. I hope that those amendments will not be taken further.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I support broadly the amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and oppose Amendments Nos. 61A, 63A and 67A. I note that in Committee when discussing the cap badge and emblems of the RUC a number of noble Lords urged their retention. They did so on the grounds that, containing the Crown, harp and shamrock as they do, the existing insignia were neutral, being symbolic of the two communities by reflecting both the British and Irish elements that

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1644

largely comprise the divided society of Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said with passion,

    "it is all the more important to keep the badge and reinforce the continuity between the RUC and the newly named force that the Secretary of State is so keen to maintain".--[Official Report, 25/10/00; col. 349.]

But that is precisely the point: no matter that in the abstract the current badge could be seen to reflect the symbols of both communities, the historical fact is--this is the point Patten made--it was seen, and would continue to be seen, in the Catholic community as representing the past. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, a new beginning requires a new set of emblems to symbolise that a new start is being made. It is an earnest of real intent. A new logo for a new launch is a commonplace in the worlds of industry, commerce and the voluntary sector, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Laird, would confirm in his professional capacity.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also said in Committee at col. 349:

    "There is no evidence that the badge is a deterrent to Catholic recruitment".

With great respect, that is somewhat disingenuous. Without appropriate market-testing, we do not know that. It may or may not be a deterrent. As I observed earlier this evening, in my time in Northern Ireland I never came across Catholics who would encourage their co-religionists to join the RUC. Certainly some would be fearful of possible intimidation, but there was an overwhelming sense that a job in the RUC was inconceivable given a history, however recently improved, that included the notorious work of the "B" Specials.

And yet almost every noble Lord wants to see a dramatic increase in Catholics working in the new police service. That will only come about if it is actively endorsed by all sections of the Catholic community--the Church, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. That will not be forthcoming unless they see a truly fresh start, and that means a new set of emblems symbolic of that fresh start. More importantly, it would lead to the development of a police service that could go into the existing "no go" areas, currently the fiefdoms of the Mafia that has grown out of the paramilitary organisations, where they would be welcomed by the majority of decent citizens. That must surely be our overriding goal.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I must admit that I probably move in lower social circles than the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. Perhaps for that reason, and as a Member of Parliament for getting on for 27 years, I have lost count of the number of occasions when I have been approached by young Catholics to provide a supporting reference for their applications to join the RUC. Parents would say, "Eammon wants to join the force. He hasn't time to come and see you. Would you prepare a reference? We'll collect it on Saturday". It was quite a common occurrence. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord, but I have been a native of too long standing--80 years or so.

8 Nov 2000 : Column 1645

Noble Lords who have today proclaimed the virtues of ditching the present all-Ireland emblem remind me of citizens of various parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in that area of London where I reside for four or five days a week, who confess that they have switched their votes to another party, "Because it was time for a change". When asked, "Change to what?" they reply, "We don't get involved in politics and so forth. It's just time for a change".

So this is a change to what? We shall ditch something which should appeal to people in all parts of Ireland and Irish people abroad. Shall we switch, for example, to something as meaningless as a Sainsbury or Texaco logo? Is that the kind of logo to which we shall descend? If that is so, it is far better for us to forget about it altogether.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, urges us to leave the decision on any new emblem to the Secretary of State after consultation with all interested parties. That sounds reasonable in the abstract. In practice we know exactly what will happen. It will not be the views of the 80 per cent or 85 per cent of the population who are either perfectly happy with the existing insignia, indifferent or mildly opposed to it which will prevail, but those of the 15 per cent (at most) hard-line republicans, as has happened so often in the past few years.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page