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PSNI thanks Reservists for 50 years on the front line

The dangerous work performed by reservists in Northern Ireland has been celebrated to mark the 50 years since their foundation.

Members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland paid tribute to the part-time officers who were frequent terrorist targets.

The Part Time Reserve was formed by the then Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) at the height of the Troubles and today has 245 officers serving their communities.

By the time the section was formed, Northern Ireland had endured months of rioting and multiple deaths with the British Army threatening to shoot anyone throwing petrol bombs. Soon after the Falls Curfew was imposed leading to gun battles between the IRA and the British Army.

In the years that followed, the 9,300 people who signed up as reservists were frequently attacked with 60 being killed. Nine were murdered after they left the service and most were targeted at their place of work. Since the de-escalation that followed the Good Friday Agreement, the Reservists have faced an uncertain future.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has commitment to reviewing how they can be given a more defined role within the new neighbourhood policing approach that is part of the force’s modernisation programme.

The force was set a target to achieve 50:50 equality of Protestant and Catholic officers in the Patten review but work was stalled by the collapse of power sharing in the Assembly. Creating a new part-time unit in line with other UK forces is hampered by the historical link to the B-Specials who were quasi-military officers dating back to the 1920s.

CC Byrne paid tribute to their contribution over the last 50 years: “I want to put on record my sincere thanks for the commitment and sacrifice of all serving part time colleagues as well as those former officers who over the past 50 years contributed to both the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. 

“Indeed, over 60 officers paid the price for public service and lost their lives for being police officers, many were targeted and ultimately murdered by terrorists at their places of civilian work.  Of course we remember too, the many hundreds more who suffered both physical and mental injuries, often life changing.”

Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, backed the plan to re-define their role to ensure the force reflects the community it serves.

Mr Lindsay said: “They were the epitome of neighbourhood policing and have been invaluable in supporting their full-time colleagues. They knew that by putting on the uniform they would become a target for terrorists. It is a measure of their courage and commitment that they stepped forward to serve during dark and dreadful days.

“These brave officers had day jobs and were then prepared to turn out for their shift as Part Time Reserve officers. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude.”

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