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Statement by the Irish Government in response to the Patten Report, 9 September 1999

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Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Statement by the Irish Government on the publication of the Report of the Independent Commission on Policing (The Patten Report) on Thursday 9 September 1999

The Government warmly welcome today's report by the Independent Commission on Policing, established in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.

This thorough and comprehensive report is the fruit of an extensive process of consultation and analysis, informed by the wide-ranging and diverse expertise and experience of the Commission's members. The Government congratulate Chris Patten and his colleagues on the commitment and vision with which they have approached and completed their demanding task.

The parties to the Good Friday Agreement made clear their belief that the Agreement "provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole." From that starting point, the Agreement listed the principles which should underpin future policing arrangements, provided for the establishment of an Independent Commission to make recommendations on those arrangements, and defined in considerable detail the Commission's remit. The Agreement's chapter on policing is an integral aspect of that package so overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Ireland, both North and South. The creation of a police service fully representative in ethos and composition of the community it serves will make a vital contribution to the Agreement's overall objectives of peace, stability and reconciliation. Early and effective implementation of the Commission's recommendations will, correspondingly, form an essential aspect of the implementation of the Agreement as a whole.

The Agreement recognises that policing is a central issue in any society. It equally recognises that Northern Ireland's history of deep divisions has made it highly emotive. The Government understand and sympathise with the powerful and sharply conflicting feelings with which very many people in Northern Ireland will approach this report. We appreciate both that some will find the changes difficult to accept, and that others may possibly see the report's proposals as not going sufficiently far. But the report is a complex and detailed document which we hope all parties and interest groups will study calmly and carefully and in a positive spirit.

The Government believe that the recommendations of the Commission comprehensively address the full range of important and sensitive issues, including the composition of a new police service, recruitment and training, respect for human rights, and arrangements for governance and accountability. From the Government's own perspective, the recommendations which aim to strengthen police effectiveness on the island of Ireland through further enhancement of the relationship between the police forces on both sides of the border are very much welcome. Taken together as a totality, the recommendations have the potential to realise the Agreement's objective of a professional, effective, accountable, representative and widely-acceptable police service. This is in the interests of all the people, unionist and nationalist alike. The opportunity for a new beginning to policing identified in the Good Friday Agreement is now there to be seized.

The publication of the Commission's report is the first step in a complex process which will require determination and sensitivity. It is essential that the implementation of its recommendations is advanced rapidly, including through the office of the Oversight Commissioner, as the report itself proposes.

The Government look forward to discussions with the British Government on implementation, as is provided for in the Agreement. We also look forward to discussing the report with political parties and other interested groups.


Thursday, 9 September 1999.

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