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NI leaders mark 'sacrifice and progress' for RUC centenary

Policing leaders from both sides of Northern Ireland’s border have marked the RUC’s centenary.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable has urged politicians to reflect on the sacrifices made by officers past and present.

Simon Byrne said current challenges were demanding the same commitment from Police Service of Northern Ireland’s officers as past generations who had served during The Troubles.

His comments came during events to mark the centenary of the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s creation. The RUC was succeeded by the PSNI in 2001 following the Patten report.

CC Byrne spoke at a service attended by current and former officers as well as former chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Mr Byrne said the centenary was an “important opportunity to reflect on policing within Northern Ireland over the century”.

The event came at a time when NI institutions – including the Assembly – remain in flux and the force is facing a budget crisis.  

The Chief said: “Context and history is everything, we cannot understand today without looking back at yesterday.

“The invaluable contribution, sacrifice and progress made by the RUCGC has contributed to policing as we know it today.

“However, through much change, one thing has remained consistent, that is the unwavering commitment to public service of officers and staff,” he said.

Justice minister Naomi Long and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris were among the dignitaries at the event in Belfast.

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of the RUC George Cross Foundation, sent a message of support.

“It is deeply appropriate that we mark together the sacrifices, honour the acts of courage and heroism and pay tribute to the achievements of all those who served in the RUC," he said.

“We remember particularly the widows and families and those who supported the serving personnel with such fortitude and devotion.”

The RUC was founded following the partition of Ireland in 1922.

More than 370 officers were killed and 9,000 injured in the years that followed.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell, said the violence that had marked most of the last 50 years had achieved little.

He told the congregation: “There is hardly a parish church in the dioceses where I served that does not have a grave in the churchyard or a memorial in the church building to a member of the RUC who was murdered, some in the most horrific of circumstances.

“Deaths which achieved nothing except to break hearts.”

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