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Press Release issued by the Police Authority after Special Meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley - 19 July 1996.



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Text: Police Authority of Northern Ireland ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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The following is the text of the press release issued by the Police Authority after a special meeting they held with the Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley, on 19 July 1996.

The Police Authority for Northern Ireland held a special meeting with the Chief Constable today to discuss the recent outbreak of serious disorder throughout Northern Ireland.

At the meeting the Chief Constable gave the Authority a full account of the RUC's handling of the recent parades at Portadown and the Lower Ormeau Road which gave rise to the disorder. Afterwards the Authority spent some time considering the issues the Chairman, Mr Pat Armstrong, confirmed that during the course of the lengthy meeting members raised a number of key issues which the Chief Constable answered in turn. These included:

  • a full and detailed account of the background to the various operational decisions taken by the Chief Constable and his senior command

  • the nature and extend of contact between the Chief Constable and other interests, political and otherwise, during the decision making process

  • the impact on the community of the handling by police and the security forces of the disorder

  • current community confidence in the RUC

  • the possibility of further disorder during the remainder of the marching season.

Expressing the Authority's grave sadness and concern at how events had unfolded, Mr Armstrong said: "People everywhere have been dismayed and disgusted by the widespread return of violence, wanton destruction and even death to our streets. But let's be clear - the responsibility for the situation lies not with the Chief Constable or the RUC but rests squarely with those who perpetrated, orchestrated or failed sufficiently to condemn the violence. Politicians, parade organisers and those who are seeking to avert them must all share responsibility for what happened.

"In trying to manage these volatile situation, the police have been criticised on all fronts. Real damage has been done to the community's confidence in the RUC but they have been placed in a no-win situation and cast as scapegoats when all they have been trying to do is their duty in upholding the law."

Following the Chief Constable's briefing the Chairman revealed that the Authority had accepted that Sir Hugh had at all times acted in the best interest of protecting local communities and maintaining law and order on the streets in the face of a highly charged situation which neither the RUC nor the Chief Constable had created but which they were left to manage in the absence of the accommodation of the two communities.

The Authority also accepted the Chief Constable's assurance that no political or partisan pressure was brought to bear on the Chief Constable. However the Authority had also decided, because of the gravity of the situation now facing the police, to consult widely in the community about the parades issue.

Mr Armstrong confirmed that Authority member Sean Neeson had withdrawn his motion of no confidence in the Chief Constable.

The Chairman said: "The economic, social and financial cost of recent events to the whole community has been incalculable but I believe that the cost could have been infinitely greater - possibly resulting in an even greater loss of life - had the Chief Constable not faced up to hard decisions as the tension mounted."

Mr Armstrong continued: "August may also be a difficult month and while it would be wrong to speculate on what may or may not happen in August one thing is quite clear, it would be unconscionable to allow a repeat of recent events. I would therefore urge all those in positions of influence - politicians, parade organisers, those opposed to parades and all responsible citizens - to redouble their efforts and avoid further disorder on our streets."

Looking to the future Mr Armstrong said: "The Authority will be urging the Secretary of State to quickly set in train a review of the current arrangements for handling contentious parades. For our part, the Authority will now be embarking on a vigorous programme of further consultation and fact finding as a first step in the crucial process of rebuilding trust and confidence in the policing of both communities. Honest and constructive dialogue offers the only acceptable way forward for the community and we appeal to our politicians to meet their constitutional responsibilities to give a lead to the community in supporting the rule of law.

As a result of the meeting motions were put forward for consideration at the Authority meeting to be held in August:-

    - that the Police Authority would positively consider what further steps can be taken to move the numerical membership of the RUC to more fully reflect the community

    - that the Police Authority would give further consideration to the changes that might be necessary to the Public Order (NI) Order 1987 and its policy on parades.


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