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The New RUC - Reflecting Sectarian Reality

As with so much around the Good Friday Agreement, what is not included in the debate around the RUC is as significant as what is.

What is excluded is the traditional demands of socialists and republicans, demands supported by the vast majority of Irish workers, demands that by themselves are far from revolutionary and simply add up to a demand for democracy; They are:

  • Disband the sectarian RUC
  • Repeal repressive legislation!
  • End Diplock Courts!

From this standpoint the elements of the Good Friday agreement dealing with the police – the Patton report – never even began to deal with the issues of democracy and human rights.

Rather than the reality of RUC repression and sectarianism what Patton addressed was "perceptions".  Disbandment was ruled out. The focus was:

  • RUC emblems
  • Independent investigation and monitoring
  • Shared control (with a hint that former IRA members would be co-opted to the new force)
  • Local boards giving small-scale influence
  • 50% recruitment from the Catholic community

Overall Patton held out the promise of sharing out patronage and control.

As with the Good Friday Agreement as a whole, the ignoble goal of a shared sectarian privilege in running the police proved an illusion – there would, after all, be no point in sectarian privilege if it were shared out evenly.  After two police bills the cold light of reality shows what looks suspiciously like the old RUC.

The British retain absolute control, unfettered by the decorative committees they have set up.

The state will retain the right to suppress investigations it doesn’t want.

What is left is a new uniform, the expectation that nationalist politicians who climb on board will be able to fix speeding tickets and a promise that recruitment will be 50% Catholic.

Of course, if the RUC were to eventually become 50% Catholic it would be a different force, but to get to that promised land you are asked to support the actually existing RUC.  It is totally implausible to suggest that a savage bigoted force, able to resist reform now, will not subvert this last hurdle.

The Sinn Fein leadership have demanded that the policing debate be reopened, but the reality is that its over and we are now well into implementation.  Secretary of state Reid has announced that the new structures will be up and running by September.  The recruitment campaign has begun. New staff have been appointed to the RUC leadership.  The new police board had been delayed – but it has the certainty of nationalist support.

Dublin expresses impatience that the "new" force is not up and running.  Seamus Mallon states with "certainty" that the SDLP will support it.  Even the self-proclaimed progressives of the Women’s Coalition come out of the closet to support the RUC.

A sectarian police needs a sectarian police force to preserve it.  That’s what the new RUC recruiting ads are saying with their slogan "Reflecting the community".  That’s what the senior partners in the nationalist family are saying too.

What workers need to defend themselves is a policy of unremitting opposition to the sectarian state, the sectarian police force. Above all they need to defend themselves against the forces supporting the Good Friday agreement - those seeking ways to ameliorate sectarianism and imperialism rather than smash them.



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