05 December 2005

Flanagan Iraq job branded ‘massive blunder’

Daily Ireland

By Eamonn Houston

BBC photo

The appointment of former RUC chief Ronnie Flanagan to oversee the development of the new Iraqi police force in the south of the country was last night branded a massive blunder by Sinn Féin’s spokesman on policing.
Gerry Kelly, MLA for North Belfast, said that the appointment of Mr Flanagan by the British government marked a “militaristic approach” to rebuilding policing in the war-torn country.
“Ronnie Flanagan is clearly the wrong person to send,” Mr Kelly said. “He was involved in the RUC Special Branch here and was in charge during one of the worst periods in the North.
“The last thing that Iraq needs is a repeat of what happened with policing here. What is needed for Iraq is the Patten proposals as a yardstick for policing. Ronnie Flanagan, while here, presided over a force accused of running state agents and collusion. He is a the wrong man for the job. Iraq needs to come out of conflict. This has to be described a a very poor appointment,” Mr Kelly said.
It emerged yesterday that Mr Flanagan has been appointed to carry out an assessment of the Iraqi police force.
British defence secretary and former direct rule secretary of state for the North John Reid said that Mr Flanagan had been asked to deliver a review of the capabilities of the new force in the British controlled sector of southern Iraq.
“Ronnie Flanagan has been sent there to find out first of all what the situation on the ground truly is as objectively as we can,” Mr Reid said.
The move comes amid concerns that the training of the new police force is not progressing as well as the Iraqi army, with fears that the police have been heavily infiltrated by the local militias.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when British troops stormed a police station in Basra following the arrest of two undercover SAS soldiers who the Iraqis refused to release.
Mr Reid said: “There’s a problem with the police in terms of split loyalties running from sympathy for the local people, right through to infiltration with the militia. That’s why we are now redoubling our efforts to make sure that these people are rooted out.
“It isn’t to say that all the police are like that. Many of them are courageous. Many have given their life in the new Iraq but some of them are rogues, some of them are corrupt and some of them have obviously entered for the wrong reasons and they’ve obviously got to be taken out”
Mr Flanagan, who has already made one visit to Basra and is planning further trips in the New Year said that progress on policing was now probably a year behind schedule.
“A total concentrated effort needs to be made by all the coalition forces, and indeed the EU, which is happening, to ensure that concentration on policing is provided,” he told the BBC’s Politics programme.
“I know of moves to remove those who are not up to standard, either in terms of their competence or in terms of the level of the integrity they bring to the job. So those things are in hand.
“Yes, they are a problem, but tremendous progress is being made.”
However, one serving British army officer – speaking anonymously – told the programme that they had already missed the chance to deal with the issue.
He said that he did not know of a single instance of British troops intervening to deal with intimidation by the Iraqi police, in incidents which ranged from “severe beatings to murder”.

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