Northern Ireland

Athletic Association plans to remove RUC link in name change

RUC crest
Image caption The RUC was consigned to history in November 2001

A police sporting body will vote later this month on proposals to remove reference to the RUC in its name.

The assistant chief constable has said the Royal Ulster Constabulary Athletic Association (RUC AA) could fail to secure grants if its name was not made more generic.

ACC Will Kerr, the Athletic Association chairman, has written to members asking them to support the change.

TUV leader Jim Allister has described the plans as "totally unacceptable".

ACC Kerr's letter said the decision was "not about politics or disrespecting the past".

"In blunt terms, a perceived unwillingness on the part of the association to change to the more generic 'Police Athletic Association Northern Ireland' may result in a failure to secure the grants on which this association is financially dependent," he said.

He further stated that a "failure to meet this requirement will almost certainly mean a significant increase in members' subscription fees to make up the shortfall".

A police spokesman said the name change proposal would reflect how the Athletic Association represented both policing organisations - the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross (RUC GC) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"As a sporting body, the Athletic Association is also keen to develop its community engagement by transitioning to the more generic and inclusive title 'Police Athletic Association Northern Ireland, incorporating the RUC GC and the PSNI'," they said.

"Our working title aims to ensure that the RUC GC name is preserved alongside that of the PSNI, reflecting the association's pride in representing both policing organisations and making the association more comfortable for all colleagues and friends, officers and staff, past, present and future.

"This is simply a recognition that the sporting association of the police family needs to reflect the name change in policing which is now over ten years old."

Image caption TUV leader Jim Allister has descried the proposals as 'totally unacceptable'

'Huge hurt'

Mr Allister said he had written to ACC Kerr asking for clarification and had tabled a question to Justice Minister David Ford asking what role his department has had in promoting the change of name.

"The RUC served with distinction throughout the terrorist campaign of the Troubles and many of its members made the supreme sacrifice," he said.

"The stripping of the RUC's name and badge was an issue which caused huge hurt to the men and women who served in its ranks.

"Now there is an attempt to erase the last remnants of its name from the PSNI's structures.

"This is totally unacceptable. This development will feed the growing perception that Northern Ireland is becoming a cold house for those who value our links with the crown and the rest of the UK".

DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt has also criticised the name change proposal.

"I have received a number of telephone calls from former RUC officers who are absolutely disgusted at this offensive proposal," he said.

"I would urge all members to vote against this foolish and unnecessary name change and also to write to the chief executive and tell him they will boycott the association and remove their subscriptions if the RUC name is removed."

The RUC AA, which was formed in 1928, is based at Newforge in south Belfast.

According to its website, its funds "are used to provide or assist in the provision of facilities and services for, or in connection with, any form of recreation or amateur sport".

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