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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

One million signatures sought for RUC

A series of rallies are planned to show support for the police

A petition to gather one million signatures in support of the police has been launched following the publication of the controversial Patten report on the future of policing in Northern Ireland.

The Independent Commission on Policing, chaired by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, recommended 175 changes to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

These include changing its name and giving it a new badge, flag, oath of allegiance and uniform.

But the Police Federation for Northern Ireland says it wants to protect the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) against the "ruinous parts" of the Patten Report.

It aims to get one million signatures on the petition, which it launched in Belfast on Monday.

Meanwhile, a member of the Patten commission has urged people to think "long and hard" before signing the Police Federation petition.

Main issue addressed

Sir John Smith was speaking at a conference to enable members of the Community and Police Liaison committees to make complaints about the Patten recommendations.

The main issue addressed was the report's proposal to set up 29 district police partnership boards, to effectively replace the existing CPLCs network.

The conference will also have a chance to hear from an RUC representative about these aspects of the report.

The Patten report sparked widespread opposition across the province when it was published last month.

A series of rallies has been organised by Assembly parties opposed to the Good Friday Agreement peace accord in a bid to highlight opposition to the report.

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