Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Flanagan: the leaked US transcript in full

RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan was interviewed by Los Angeles film-maker TL Thousand on April 7. The following transcript of part of the interview has been widely leaked. Ms Thousand said her tape ran out after Mr Flanagan gave his answer at the end of the transcript.

RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan was interviewed by Los Angeles film-maker TL Thousand on April 7. The following transcript of part of the interview has been widely leaked. Ms Thousand said her tape ran out after Mr Flanagan gave his answer at the end of the transcript.



(Handwritten:)Breandan, so that there is no question as to the context of Ronnie's remarks, I've enclosed the portion of his transcripts covering the entire discussion re parades. The remarks we discussed are on page 3.

(Transcript begins:)

Q: For the last couple of years, the RUC has been in the unenviable position of, well, physically mediating between parades Loyal Order parades and nationalist communities through which they wanted to march.

This year, with the police ... I'm sorry Parades ...

FLANAGAN: The Parades Commission.

Q: Thank you. With the Parades Commission. That the Parades Commission is charged with either allowing or asking that a parade be re-routed around nationalist communities.

The spirit of Drumcree has arrived at an understanding with the Orange Order and one of their conditions is that all traditional marches will go down all traditional routes by whatever means possible.

I was interviewing Joel Patton and when I pressed him on the point, when he was talking about physically forcing a parade down a traditional route, he said that Drumcree '96 would look like a non-violent peaceful event in comparison to what they were prepared to do.

Is the RUC already putting into place measures to protect both the parades and the nationalist communities?

FLANAGAN: It has always been our role to preserve order. There are many people who seek to create disorder. We've never been interested in whether a particular parade goes, thorugh a particular area. We have no vested interest in a parade or protest against a parade. It has been our role to preserve order.

And too often in the past, we have been cast as pursuing either a nationalist agenda or a unionist agenda. The purpose of the Parades Commission, in being given the responsibility to make these decisions, is primarily to prevent us, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, from being used in that political way.

But, it remains our duty to do all that we can to preserve peace. So, in the end, preservation of the peace remains our prime responsibility. We will be doing all that we can to foster local arrangements to bring about a peaceful resolution in contentious areas.

But injecting our officers often between otherwise opposing factions, what is often overlooked, is that our primary objective is to prevent violence from one community against the other.

Now we do that by injecting our officers between the two communities, and often they're subjected to violence by one community or often again, by both communities. But, we invariably succeed in our primary objective in reducing the potential for one community to attack the other.

And people have overlooked that too often in the past. And we've done it at great risk. We've done it at great threat. We've done it at the cost of grave danger. We've lost more than 300 officers who've been murdered in trying to preserve the peace in this country. And we've had thousands of officers injured. And their sacrifice is far too often overlooked. But we will be there again this summer as we have every summer doing our very best without pursuing either a nationalist agenda or a Unionist agenda , to simply keep the peace.



Q: There was the charge last year that the Government and the RUC took the path of least resistance with respect to Garvaghy Road ...



FLANAGHAN (interrupting) I think I had to make a very difficult decision at Garvaghy Road. I think I described it at the end of the day as the balancing of two evils. And that did not mean that either the parade was evil in itself or that a protest was evil in itself.

I had to balance up all the intelligence available to me and come to a decision in a way that minimised the potential for that violence. Now saying that, of course, people who were aggrieved of the decision have tended to enhance, tended to work in a propagandist way against us.

But, certainly the decisions that were taken last year greatly reduced the violence that ensued in comparison with the previous year.

I'm not always in the luxurious position to take decisions that are right in principle. I'm not always in the luxurious position to take decisions that I want to take. Sometimes I'm cast with the stark choice of making the decision that saves most life. That prevents most disorder. That prevents most injury to people.

And that's sometimes the stark decision that I have to make. And that's the job that I have. It's not always easy. It's often very difficult.



Q: So, if the Parades Commission rules against the Orange Order with respect to marching down Garvaghy Road, and if the Spirit of Drumcree masses thousands there again, threatening to use as they have said on record they would whatever means necessary to force the march down, will the RUC let them through?

FLANAGHAN: Absolutely.

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