Northern Ireland news

Stories about disbanded RUC rarely told, says former officer

A Force Like No Other, by former RUC officer Colin Breen

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COLIN Breen said when he first floated the idea of writing a book about the RUC he thought it would be a collection of stories to reflect the 'black humour' and camaraderie that existed among members.

Having himself served for 14 years, joining first as a part-time officer in 1977, he said he was aware that stories about the now-disbanded force, in members' own words, are rarely told.

"We're probably our own worst enemy in that regard.

"These are men and women who would never speak to the media and have spent their entire lives not talking about their job because of the potential risk.

"They really only speak to each other and then try and cover up their feelings, about what were traumatic events, with black humour."

More recently there have been accusations of a one-sided approach to reporting the past, with critics saying there is little effort to tell the history of conflict from the point of view of the security forces.

The Co Down author said when he had the idea to write A Force Like No Other, of those he approached to capture their stories the majority felt "angry" at how the past is portrayed.

"The men I first approached said to me 'we understand what you're trying to do but you're wasting your time, no one cares about us'.

"They feel let down by politicians who have left the past unresolved and allowed RUC officers to be treated like war criminals.

"I was determined to tell their stories though and not let them get lost with time."

Mr Breen added that he believes judging modern police practices against what happened at the height of the Troubles is creating a false perception of the RUC.

"Officers were dealing with hundreds of murders, working 12-hour shifts with limited resources.

"For collusion to have been systemic that would have meant every single officer being in on this conspiracy and not talking about it - think about how ludicrous that sounds.

"We're very behind when comes to telling our story, fighting our own corner, putting forward our version of events.

"That's what my book is trying to do. It's a small start but at least it's something."

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