June 20, 2016

The RUC - For protestants they were friends, and for many Catholics they were vicious foes

Sir James Bernard Flanagan, a Catholic and Chief Constable of the RUC; and Michael McAtamney a Catholic and Deputy Chief Constable
Declan Kearney recently wrote in 'Uncomfortable Conversations':
"Seeking unionist repudiation of British state forces and the RUC is as unhelpful as demanding republican repudiation of the IRA."

The RUC had a unique relationship with the Stormont government - it fell under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, inevitably unionist. Therefore the RUC were seen to be acting as agents of the government. Nationalist perception was that the RUC was the military wing of the old one-party unionist state cemented in Stormont. Adrian Dunbar said to the Radio Times:
"The RUC were a sectarian organisation, given that they were drawn from one section of the community. It wasn’t my section of the community, so it was hard not to see them as an oppressive force."
Martin McGuinness in 1985 referred to an RUC officer as a "loyalist gunman" for instance.

Following the communal disturbances of 1969, in 1970 the USC (Ulster Special Constabulary, commonly called the "B-Specials" or "B Men") was disbanded and replaced by the Ulster Defence Regiment; and, to free the RUC from political control, a Police Act established a new Police Authority for Northern Ireland, intended to be representative of the main sections of the community.

The RUC complement, previously limited to 3,500, was raised, leading ultimately to a full-time force of 8,478 by 1992, when there was also a full-time reserve of 3,160 and a part-time reserve of 1,432. 

However there were very few Catholic recruits compared with the number of protestants.


Derek Mahon said to the Paris Review:
"As I went through my teens I saw them with my own eyes. A part of my visual experience was Election Day in Belfast, those lorries full of Unionist supporters, the polling booths. This was part of the whole fabric. I didn’t look at these people as terrifying B-Specials and so on—they were my family
I had an uncle who was a sergeant in the B-Specials. My cousin Conacht and I used to play with his unloaded revolver in their house. The man who took the Unionist tally at Skegoneill school polling booth was the father of the little girl I sat beside in school. It was all part of the whole."
Newton Emerson wrote:
"The life story she presents to the electorate is of a grammar school girl and RUC man’s daughter struggling to lead a normal life through the Troubles. 
This is the Protestant parable of our generation, as evocative as a classic episode of Blue Peter and every bit as quaintly respectable. It is a world view in which the Troubles were a sectarian crime-wave, unleashed upon society by a small number of mainly republican terrorists. Thanks to the security forces, society endured, although unionism must now deal with republican politics and its attempts to “rewrite the past”. 
Foster has introduced herself as Northern Ireland’s First Minister by resetting that past, to a point which resonates with the entire unionist constituency. Her two pivotal experiences of the Troubles – forced off the family farm, her father shot and wounded; surviving a bomb attack on her school bus – are archetypes of IRA evil. Yet the purity of her victimhood gives Foster the confidence and authority to work with Sinn Féin today. “I have no doubt I was bitter as a teenager,” she told BBC Northern Ireland last week, immediately adding: “I hope I have changed. I hope I have matured.” 
As a positioning stance, this could hardly be bettered. 
Foster’s biography runs down the middle of these divides like a strip of double-sided sticky tape. Every unionist can adhere to it and I am no exception.  
My father was a shopkeeper and hence an IRA “economic target”. He spent an hour a night for 40 years looking for the incendiary device he never found (in the end, our shop was burned down by a faulty fridge). 
(Economic target) Throughout the Troubles, people clung to the idea that risk was minimal if you avoided certain places, jobs and activities. But families like Foster’s and mine knew the IRA needed only the thinnest of pretexts to attack a Protestant farm or business. There is no doubt this was the real “economic target” – republicans devoted the final year before their 1994 ceasefire to flattening Protestant market towns. Sly doubts are now cast on the purity of our victimhood and, in truth, we had questions of our own. Commercial life in my home town was plagued, between IRA bombs by loyalist intimidation and extortion or robbery and assault if the intimidation failed. The RUC seemed strangely unable to stop the obvious culprits. Shortly before he died, I asked my father if he had any suspicions about one case affecting his business. He said he did not. But we are not a naive people: during the Troubles, ordinary unionists wondered loudly and often why the reputed few hundred terrorists could not simply be arrested, given the enormous security apparatus arranged against them. We knew something was wrong with our view of “right”. 
Foster has had no hesitation in building this into her reset of history. Last month, an allegation was made that police had prior knowledge through an informant of the IRA’s 1993 Shankill bomb. Despite outright PSNI denials of a story toxic to the unionist narrative, Foster promptly met relatives of the victims, supported their call for a police ombudsman’s inquiry and promised to raise the matter with the secretary of state. She then slotted it all back into the unionist comfort zone with the following statement: 
“I have been, and continue to be, a long-time supporter of the RUC and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, but that doesn’t take away from the fact there were a few bad apples around at that particular point in time, therefore we have to get to the truth of this.” 
The “few bad apples” cliche is so at odds with the thrust of modern truth recovery that it is almost a shock to be reminded of how this was the safety limit on unionist thinking for decades. Now Foster has brought it back, most unionists will realise it never went away. 
We all knew RUC officers, went to school with their children and had friends who joined – and they were good apples, in a solid barrel. Their impartiality was confirmed in my teenage years as they were shot at by the IRA and burned out of their houses by supporters of the DUP, enraged at the policing of riots against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. 
Foster has so far left that detail out of her 1980s nostalgia. 
Last week, secretary of state Theresa Villiers delivered a landmark speech that echoed the DUP leader’s line and criticised republicanism’s “pernicious counter-narrative” of the Troubles. “At last” trilled the front page of the News Letter – but wider unionist opinion seemed unmoved. Sinn Féin and the British government are engaged in a negotiation over dealing with the past and the speech was perhaps too obviously a part of that, heralding another fudge. Villiers has not lived the life that can conjure such sentiments from the heart. 
Responding to Foster’s BBC interview, Martin McGuinness said “there will always be more than one narrative to any conflict”. Unionists know that, of course. The appeal of our Blue Peter girl is showing us one we made earlier."
The former Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin Victor Griffin was interviewed in Australia by Stephen Crittenden, who asked
"When I was growing up in Australia, I’m sure the IRA was widely regarded as pretty loathsome, but the Royal Ulster Constabulary was usually seen to be worse. One of the things that I think is most interesting in your book is that you mount something that we rarely see, a defence of the restraint of the Royal Ulster Constabulary during this whole period of the Troubles, and you say it acted with restraint and it has not been given the kind of recognition and honour that it deserves."
Victor Griffin responded:
"Yes, I think that’s true. Generally speaking as a whole, the RUC acted with commendable restraint in spite of tremendous provocation in so many cases where they must have been tempted to open up and let fly, when they see their comrades shot down and then being ill-treated on the ground as they were lying murdered. And I’ve known so many RUC men, there’s no doubt about it, they’re very decent, upright people, and they did their duty and did it in a very loyal, restrained way and commendable way
But I say there were also cases where they overstepped the mark, but I doubt if any police force anywhere in the world would have conducted itself with the same restraint and dignity through all the trouble and all the intense provocation as the RUC in Northern Ireland. And I think that should be put on the record and it has been put on the record recently because when the Queen came over and presented the George Cross to the RUC, it was noticeable that the Roman Catholic Primate was there present, so it is being recognised today."
Matt Bagott said:
"I wonder what would have happened [with the flag protests] in other parts of the world? People would have been shot dead on the streets."
Angela Graham, from Drum, County Monaghan (now project coordinator of CFRC’s Deep Dialogue Group) said:
"[As Protestants] our stated position during the conflict was heads down and mouths shut, don’t draw attention to yourself. … mind your own business, don’t talk about the conflict … [because] beneath the surface [many of us] had [relatives in RUC]… That affected our lives, [for example if there was] a wedding or a funeral, you were putting your family at risk to have them at events in County Monaghan."
Trevor Ringland, whose father was in the RUC, said:
"What we are increasingly finding is a selection of facts supposedly being taken together and shaped to suit a political view of what was going on by people who do not seem to understand what the security forces were trying to achieve."
He also said:
"Many security force families have not protested as loudly as others in order to bolster the peace process."
Marty McGartland, whose life story became a major movie ‘Fifty Dead Men Walking’, said:
"Special Branch got up to unsavoury things but in all my years with them, they never suggested anything illegal or that would allow anyone to come to harm."
Mr McGartland also said:
"Special Branch often went way beyond their call of duty to find out details on police officers who were being targeted in order to protect them. I believe opened files would show the public that they normally tried to do the right things in an unbelievably difficult conflict. 
There is no doubt some agents were allowed to engage in criminality but I believe that many thousands of lives may have been saved by agents. 
I believe agents saved many thousands of lives, but nobody should have lost their lives and for those that did the state should provide closure."
 Steven McCaffery wrote in the Detail:
"The UDR, or Ulster Defence Regiment, was formed in 1970 following the outbreak of the Troubles. It grew to become the largest infantry regiment in the British army. 
It was recruited in Northern Ireland and saw over 250 of its members killed by republicans during the course of the conflict. 
Many were shot when they were off-duty, often in rural areas, leaving deep scars in unionist communities. But the regiment was regarded with suspicion and even fear by sections of nationalism.


The RUC in 1961 had Catholics representation of 12% falling to 7.7% by 1992.

Joe Brolly wrote:
"In 1993, the first ever religious breakdown of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was published. Of the 13,014 police officers, 6.9 per cent were Catholic. I remember consternation in our circles that so many Catholics were working for the enemy. In Dungiven, like other Catholic towns, the police weren’t served in the shops and no one spoke to them, save to call them black bastards or chant, ‘SS RUC’. 
Then, suddenly, and I am not sure when this happened, sectarianism was an embarrassment. Like racism, it became something to be ashamed of. I think perhaps the seeds were sown round about the time when Ian Paisley fell under the spell of Martin McGuinness and the two of them went around like shy but delighted lovers. 
In 2001, the RUC, a Protestant force for a Protestant people, was disbanded and replaced by a new force called the Police Service of Northern Ireland. When the BBC sent a camera crew to Crossmaglen for a vox pop to ask if the locals would join this new body, Paddy Short voiced the feelings of most of us when he said, “We’re not built that way around here.” That sentiment soon evaporated. As of March 14, 2016, the proportion of Catholics in the PSNI is a whopping 31.2pc and rising."
Chris Ryder wrote in 1997:
"RUC canteen culture is still stubbornly male, Protestant, British, Unionist and laddish. The hard-drinking days are gone but there remains a hardcore allegiance to values and practices that compromise the concept of an even- handed, impartial police service."
The document, Force Research Branch - survey of religious and political harassment and discrimination in the RUC (1997) found:
"These results tell us that at least 29 per cent of all 964 Catholics in the RUC, and three per cent of all Protestants, have experienced religious harassment during their careers. These levels could be higher if others who had experienced harassment did not reply to the survey... 
The most common form of religious harassment was sectarian jokes, banter or sectarian songs, with 92 per cent of Catholic respondents who had been harassed and 64 per cent of Protestant respondents stating that they had experienced this on one or more occasions."
A mixed and polarised opinion of the RUC was recorded in surveys and polls on policing. A Belfast Telegraph poll in 1985 reported that while a substantial proportion of both Protestants (59 %) and Catholics (43%) said the RUC carried out its duties fairly, the rest of the Protestants (37%) said that the RUC carried out its duties very fairly while the rest of the Catholics (53%) said that it carried out its duties unfairly or very unfairly.

John Darby wrote in 1976, 'Conflict in Northern Ireland: The Development of a Polarised Community':
"There is a body of evidence that emergency powers were operated in a discriminatory fashion, and that both the administration of justice and the use of the police force were subjected to political pressures." 
Chief Superintendent for the greater Belfast area Brian McCargo said (2001):
"I was awarded the top recruit award in 1972 and now I'm deputy assistant chief constable for the greater Belfast region. I worked very hard and you'll find that with so many Catholic officers. 
A disproportionate number of Catholic officers occupy top jobs in the service - which goes to show the quality of those who came forward. 
We may have only been 9% or 10% of the RUC, but forget the percentages, that's 1,400 officers - that's bigger than the entire strength of some other forces."
Chief Superintendent for the greater Belfast area Brian McCargo reflecting on his three decades as a Catholic in the RUC, said (2001):
"But in 1969, following the disbandment of the so-called B Specials [a police auxiliary distrusted by the Catholic community] Catholic clergy and nationalist politicians were trying to encourage people like me to join the RUC."
He also said:
"In 1972, I went into the regular force. The day I started my training was Bloody Sunday - the day many nationalist people were killed in Derry City. 
You can imagine the emotions that accompanied me when I went in, but never did I think: 'Why did I join the RUC?' 
I've been lucky. The RUC as an organisation and the colleagues I've worked with have always been very supportive. 
If I had to think of one thing that troubled me, it's that there was always a tremendous threat against my family. 
My wife and I have raised our family as practising Catholics. We had to ensure our children attended church and went to Catholic schools and that was difficult, very difficult. 
When my eldest daughter went to grammar school on the Falls Road [a predominantly nationalist area], I was virtually precluded from going there such was the threat to me and her. 
Recently a Protestant colleague said: 'With all the risks the rest of us had to face, no recognition has been given to the fact that the risks faced by Catholic officers and their families were always that much greater.' 
It's true that if you get points for killing a police officer, you get double points for killing a Catholic police officer."
Jonathan Stephenson of the SDLP said in 1997:
"Basically it is 'their' police force or our police force, it is not an inclusive police force."
Martin McGuinness said in 1985 following a pre-election visit to Derry by taoiseach Garret FitzGerald on April 30th 1985 which saw Fitzgerald shake hands with an RUC officer:
"The image of SDLP supporter Garret FitzGerald shaking hands with a loyalist gunman… should stick in the minds of Nationalists as they go to the polls on May 15th [for the North’s local government elections]."
Contrast this with what McGuinness said in May 2015:
"This murder and these attacks and all other forms of violence are to be condemned. Attacks such as these are designed to take us back and they will fail. 
We must create a community where everyone feels safe and we will not be deterred by the bullet or the bomb and urge anyone with any information to bring it to the PSNI. 
Peace and democracy is the only way forward."
Ruairi O'Bradaigh said in 2009 on the death of Stephen Carroll:
"All loss of life is regretted, and in this case of course the same thing, but that ultimately the British government is responsible in that it recruited that constable into its forces and put him in harm’s way."
As Tom Wall explained, the policy of assassinating members of the RIC began not too far away from Coolacrease in Soloheadbeg in Tipperary in 1919. These and similar killings were unpopular even among Catholics, at least until the arrival of the Black and Tans and RIC Auxiliaries.


Presently in Northern Ireland (via Judith Thompson, victims commissioner):

- 500,000 - meet definition of "victim"
- 200,000 - suffering trauma
- 40,000 - suffer injuries

The following relates to the RUC:

- One in sixteen serving members of the RUC was killed or injured.
- 505 British soldiers were killed, more than 3,000 injured.
- The army was responsible for 302 deaths. 

David Sharrock wrote in the Telegraph in 2001:
"Northern Ireland has been the most dangerous place in the world to be a police officer. 
According to Interpol figures, the risk factor in 1983 was twice as high as in El Salvador, the second most dangerous. 
The 12,800 men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have faced, ever since it came into being, ruthless terrorist campaigns from both sides of the religious divide. 
- In the past 30 years, 302 officers have died as a result of the Troubles. 
- Another 13 were murdered by the IRA between the force’s foundation in 1922 and 1961. 9,000 have been injured. 
- Levels of stress-related illness have been higher than in any other police force: almost 70 officers have committed suicide, many of them with RUC-issued weapons. 
Although republican terrorists committed the vast majority of murders, the first and last to die fell at the hands of the so-called loyalists. 
Constable Victor Arbuckle was shot in a 1969 Protestant riot. 
Constable Frankie O'Reilly died after a pipe bomb attack by a loyalist mob in Portadown in 1998… 
The RUC was always faced with a dual role of providing normal policing while countering terrorism. 
It was for this reason that, like the Royal Irish Constabulary before it, officers were issued with firearms. 
Roman Catholic misgivings were reinforced by the overwhelmingly Protestant composition of the force, and in particular its original Special Constabulary reserve, the B Specials. 
An official committee of inquiry on the reorganisation of policing in the province in 1921 called for the new force to be one third Roman Catholic. However, the proportion has never exceeded 20 per cent and has more commonly stood in recent years at about 10 per cent. 
Its major handicap in winning widespread Catholic support has been the nationalist perception that the RUC was the military wing of the old virtual one-party rule exercised by successive Ulster Unionist governments in the old Stormont parliament, rather than an independent police service. 
In the late 1960s, civil rights protests led to a collapse of law and order in the ghettos of Belfast and Londonderry. 
Lord Scarman’s tribunal after the 1969 rioting recognised the “fateful split between the Catholic community and the police”. He noted six specific occasions during the riots when the RUC had been “seriously at fault”. 
While accepting that the RUC had made mistakes, Lord Scarman rejected the notion of “a partisan force co-operating with Protestant mobs to attack Catholic people”. The B Specials were later disbanded… 
In the worst single atrocity against the RUC, nine officers including two women, were murdered in an IRA mortar bomb attack on the Newry RUC base in 1985. 
Thirteen RUC stations were bombed in border areas that year, leading to the erection of Army watch towers, which are now being dismantled. 
In the 1990s, the RUC had to face a major upsurge in loyalist terrorism as well as the return of the Provisional IRA car bomb on a substantial scale. 
In 1994, 10 RUC Special Branch officers were among 29 people killed when an RAF Chinook helicopter crashed into a hillside on the Mull of Kintyre, robbing the war against terrorism of some of its finest brains. 
By then, however, they had completed the ground work for the Provisional IRA ceasefire, which was called later the same year. 
Security analysts believe that it was the work of the RUC Special Branch in particular which closed down the option of terrorism for the Provos and which forced the organisation down the political route. 
There will, however, be a bitter after-taste in the mouths of many RUC officers this weekend as they mark the passing of the force’s name. 
The view of many is that, having defeated the Provisionals on the terrorist front, the RUC is nevertheless being disbanded and dismantled in order to appease republicans. 
One officer said: “The Provos, still an illegal organisation which is still targeting potential murder victims, still training, still purchasing weapons, still murdering, have outlasted us.”"
Chief Superintendent for the greater Belfast area Brian McCargo said (2001):
"The RUC has changed its name, which 99.9% of officers didn't want to see happen. We regret it and have shed tears. We are proud members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but we will see the changes through since it is the will of the people."

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