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20 February 2015
The Good Friday Agreement

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Policing and Justice
Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland
     
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Launching the report, A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland, Christ Patten said that it was "the most difficult and gruelling job" he had ever done and he urged Catholic leaders in the nationalist community to encourage people to join the new police service.

The immediate reaction of the Catholic Church was positive. The Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, said the report was an important step forward and deserved "honest and serious consideration". The Church of Ireland Archbishop, Dr Robin Eames, was more cautious. He said policing had been a political football for far too long and "ways must be found of removing it from sectional or party political considerations". He urged "careful and prayerful reading" before individual conclusions were reached.

The Presbyterian Church urged people to prayerfully reflect on it rather than jump to any conclusions. The Methodist Church in Ireland said: "The recommendations have the potential to take politics out of policing and may indeed be part of a new beginning for Northern Ireland."

 
Audio and Video
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Key Academic Opinions
Re-imaging policing
     
Image of Peter Mandelson answering questions on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill in the House of Commons
Secretary of State Peter Mandelson answers questions on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill in the House of Commons
Unionist political reaction, however, was swift and condemnatory. The Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble described the report as the "most shoddy piece of work I have seen in my entire life". He regarded the name change a "gratuitous insult" and warned that the unionist community would be so outraged by the symbolic changes that they would reject its many worthy recommendations. The Party's deputy leader John Taylor said the report was "a total surrender of all our Britishness in Northern Ireland".
   
     
The day after its publication the unionist morning newspaper, the News Letter, summed up its readers' anger by juxtaposing an emotive photograph of a RUC man's funeral with one word: Betrayed. The nationalist Irish News carried the banner headline: A New Beginning and its editorial said the proposals had "the potential to transform the relationship between the police force and the wider public in Northern Ireland".

The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition was supportive of the human rights recommendations and the SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon welcomed the report but added that they wanted to see its recommendations implemented swiftly. Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP were concerned that there would not be an immediate ban on the use of plastic bullets.

The Northern Ireland Secretary Dr Mo Mowlam set a November deadline for public consultation on the report before legislation was introduced at Westminster.

 
Key Newspaper Articles
Plan deserves our analysis
Patten blueprint is only way ahead
     
The Police Bill    
The government published the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill on 16 May 2000. At the end of May Tom Constantine, former director of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, was appointed Oversight Commissioner. When the Patten report was published in September 1999 it recommended that an Oversight Commissioner be appointed "as soon as possible". An Implementation Plan containing the Government’s response to each of the 175 recommendations was issued on 6 June.  
Key Academic Opinions
Progress or placebo
     
The Bill was criticised by the SDLP who raised 44 separate amendments and Sinn Féin who claimed it made at least 75 changes to the Patten recommendations on police reform. The Bill was also criticised by the Police Ombudsman, the Police Authority, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International.  
Key Academic Opinions
The Police (NI) Bill
     
The central thrust of the criticism is that the Bill weakens Patten’s proposals on police control and accountability. His report envisaged a strong and independent police board linked to a system of district policing partnerships. Unionists are opposed to this and refer to it as "Balkanisation" of the police. The other key areas where the Bill fails to follow Patten are:

 -  The proposed Oversight Commissioner
 -  The proposed provision on transparency and accountability in relation to the powers of the new Policing Board to initiate inquiries
 -  The proposed provisions on human rights and balance in the new police service
   
     
Amendments were made to the Bill before it received its Royal Assent on 23 November 2000. Although the SDLP and Sinn Féin accepted that some of their concerns had been dealt with, sufficient changes had not been made to enable them to support nominations to the new Police Board or recommend that Catholics join the new Police Service. For the SDLP everything hinged on Secretary of State Mandelson’s implementation plan that set out when and how various aspects of the policing changes in the Act would come into effect.  
Key Newspaper Articles
Unease as dissension builds
The Patten, the whole Patten
NI Police Bill critics
Our best chance for a new beginning
     
Image of Police Service of Northern Ireland badge
The Police Service of Northern Ireland badge
On 24 January 2001 Peter Mandelson resigned from the government and was replaced as Secretary of State by the former Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid. On 17 August Reid published a 75-page policing plan outlining in detail changes to be made to the RUC as it was transformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The new plan included substantial changes to the policing board and powers of investigation of police operations.

Sinn Fein rejected the document and highlighted twenty areas of the plan which fell short of nationalist expectations. On 20 August the SDLP announced that they would endorse it and called on Catholics to support the new service. The Irish government and the Catholic Church in Ireland had already indicated they would support the plan.

In a thirty year break with tradition the SDLP agreed to nominate members to the new policing board and some weeks later, on 21 September the UUP and the DUP also agreed to nominate. The new board has ten political members and nine non-political members.

On 4 November 2001 the RUC changed its name to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and on 12 December the Police Board unanimously agreed on a badge for the new service. The emblem features a St Patrick's Cross surrounded by six symbols - a harp, crown, shamrock, laurel leaf, torch and scales of justice. Under the Police Act the title of the new service contains the reference "incorporating the RUC".
 
Key Newspaper Articles
Backing police a high risk
Another brick in the structure
New Police Service badge
     
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