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Peter Hadden and Manus Maguire

Calls for RUC disbandment

(19 July 1996)

From Militant [UK], 19 July 1996.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

Before Drumcree the Catholic middle class had been inclined to disbelieve claims of RUC bias as Sinn Fein propaganda. But, on Friday 12 July it was a middle-class doctor from well-to-do South Belfast, not a Sinn Feiner, who demanded the disbandment of the RUC, on BBC’s popular Talkback programme.

This demand was also put forward by Francis Rocks, the Independent councillor who sits on the Northern Ireland Police Authority. This is somewhat ironic since Rocks, elected in 1993 as an SDLP councillor for Cookstown, was expelled from the party for taking up his seat on the Police Authority.

Historically, the police in Ireland have always been paramilitary in character. This was the case with the pre-partition Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and also the case with the RUC.

The RUC was set up in 1921 as an arm of the new Unionist state. While it was used against the Catholic population, it was also used against movements of the working class.

Since the 1970s the RUC has been part and parcel of the British state apparatus. Britain used the North as a training ground for perfecting its weapons against the working class. Methods used and adopted here for crowd control have in turn been used to some extent in Britain. The miners in 1984, anti-poll tax protesters later, and other sections of workers who dared oppose the Tories were met with many of the repressive measures learnt in Northern Ireland.

It was also the RUC tactics, used to subdue the Catholic population in the 1970s and early 1980s, which were turned against Protestants protesting against the Anglo-Irish Agreement after 1985. Catholics have been particularly incensed at Orangemen being allowed to block roads with impunity, and even in some cases with RUC collusion. But would the RUC be more acceptable if they cracked more Protestant skulls?

Absolutely not! Militant Labour does not favour an equality of repression.

The recent events have convinced Catholics that the RUC is a sectarian, baton-wielding, plastic-bullet shooting police force.

The police must be a service to the community, not a centralised force to repress it. The police need the confidence and support of the whole community if it is to act properly. The RUC is not such a force. It should be disbanded.

We need a new police service which is local, community based, unarmed and accountable. Police services need to be controlled by democratic police committees.

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