Irish American reaction as Hugh Orde steps down
Prominent Irish-Americans and Irish involved in Northern Ireland’s peace process have been giving their reaction to the news that Hugh Orde, the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is to step down.
He took over as head of the police service seven years ago, and is to become president of the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Orde, who is 50 and from Surrey in England, helped steer the police service as it found its new role in post-conflict Northern Ireland.
In 2001, the old police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), was replaced by the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Former congressman Bruce Morrison, the author of the Morrison Visas, said that Orde has done and “excellent job” and that he had “acquitted himself with great distinction.” The police force in Northern Ireland today, Morrison said, was in stark contrast to the RUC, which was often “above the law.”
The recent outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland, Morrison added, in which two British soldiers and a police officer were murdered by dissident Republicans, saw Orde give a “telling performance.” Orde saw this as a police enforcement issue, and not a military issue, according to Morrison, which was the right decision to make.
“It’s certainly a very different policing environment than when he took over, and all for the better,” the former congressman said.
Dr. Gerald Lynch, President Emeritus at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, got to know Orde well, when both of them served on the Patten Commission, the commission set up under the terms of the Northern Ireland peace accord, the Good Friday Agreement, to reform Northern Ireland’s policing system.
“He did an absolutely superb job in an almost impossible position,” Lynch told IrishCentral.
“It was a real baptism of fire for him when he took over – a lot of the time, he was between a rock and hard place. There were a lot of strong personalities he had to deal with – men like Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley are no pushovers.”
Reform of policing in Northern Ireland was one of the politically most difficult – and important - tasks to be undertaken following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Nationalists, many of whom hated the old police service, the RUC, identifying it as a symbol of British oppression, wanted a speedy pace of reform.
But some of these reforms were very difficult for unionists to stomach: many RUC members had been killed by the IRA in the Troubles, and some unionists felt that changing its name as well as removing old flags and symbols associated with the RUC, was an insult to to RUC members.
In other words, much of the time, Orde had to walk a very careful path. He inevitably ended up taking criticism from both nationalists and unionists, but managed to earn the respect from both.
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