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RUC riches show emptiness of Patten reform

John McAnulty

4 October  2012

When errors in tendering for main line rail services in Britain were found to lead to new costs of £40 million there was a major political storm.

When it was found that a massive con had led to the reemployment by the new police service of over 1000 former RUC members, retired as a result of the Patten report in the most generous redundancy packet in history, and that it had cost over £100 million, there was hardly a ripple in the North of Ireland.

The DUP, fresh from the loyalist triumph of the Ulster covenant centenary, brushed aside Sinn Fein complaints. The police lacked experienced officers to combat terrorism, they claimed. We should be thankful that the RUC officers were willing to accept another sack of money. What was £100 million or so to ensure security?

Chief Constable Matt Baggot gave a good-natured shrug of his shoulders. Mistakes had been made and with the benefit of hindsight things could have been done differently.

Sinn Fein could only splutter. Questions needed to be answered. The new recruits should have been trained up.

Sinn Fein were unable to put the real case. The enormous sums spent in the Patton reforms were meant to sanitize a force with a long history of torture, of assassination and endemic collaboration with loyalist death squads. On the strength of Patten Sinn Fein supported the St. Andrews agreement that holds up the current administration and offered unconditional support for the police. They have gone on to call on their supporters to collaborate with the police in tracking down republican militants.

Now the audit committees report shows that the reform was largely blunted and that the RUC culture survived. This was especially the case in enquiries into state killings. "Retired" officers here, busy investigating crimes alleged to have been committed by their colleagues, were earning so much that they were given help with tax avoidance by the police!

Sinn Fein cannot admit this. It is no longer possible for them to change direction. What their leader, Martin McGuinness, says now in the face of growing unionist triumphalism, is that we are all on a journey on the road to peace and that unionism has not caught up with the Shinners. 

But the unionists have no journey to make. They were bribed but they didn't stay bribed. Bribes didn't stop the UVF rioting. They didn't stop the Orange Order bigots pumping out their usual bile. It did not restrain unionist politicians. 

It is Sinn Fein who have been on a one-way journey. They can only hope that the universal culture of bribery and corruption that they have spawned will keep the unstable settlement afloat.


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