A play charting the difficult transition of the RUC into the PSNI will ask audiences to consider a new, untold narrative according to one former superintendent.
Crows on the Wire, which will be performed at theatres throughout eight counties this month, tells the story of the disbandment of the RUC and formation of the new force in 2001 as part of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
The 90-minute play, described as an ‘emotive and ground-breaking’ production commissioned by Londonderry’s Verbal Arts Centre with the help of European funding, will be followed by panel discussions at most of the performances.
Retired RUC officer Roger McCallum, who served 26 years with the force and one with the newly-formed PSNI, is one of around 10 people called upon to get involved with the project, which he feels is important at a time when Northern Ireland is trying to come to terms with its past.
“I’ve always felt they are a group of folk that haven’t really told their story,” he said. “There may have been a bit of a reluctance to get involved, people feel a little marginalised.”
Playwright Jonathan Burgess said he felt it was a story that needed to be told, representing the human emotions behind the institutional change.
Roger, a superintendent when news broke of the impending change, said he shared the frustration and disillusionment of many colleagues.
“I think we (the RUC) were sacrificed for whatever reason by politicians,” he said.
“There was certainly anger, annoyance and it left a bad taste in the mouth.”
And just over a week after the release of a book claiming collusion between the RUC and loyalists in a number of UVF killings in the Troubles, Roger said the play could be more topical than ever.
“I think they (the RUC) took a bit of a knock last week,” he said, adding that he was never aware of any collusion, having worked in every county in Northern Ireland.
“If there was collusion, it was very much in a minority,” he said.
“I think it’s important to have a play that reflects the everyday reality for the ordinary, decent, honourable and hard-working police officers who made up the RUC during one of the most dangerous periods for policing.”
Roger, who now counts former IRA hunger striker Laurence McKeown among his friends through cross-community work in recent years, said that relationship would have been “inconceivable” during his time in the RUC.
He added that watching the play and taking part in the discussion may involve people “stepping a little outside of your comfort zone”, but encouraged as many people as possible to try and see it.
“It’s important to humanise - the tears of the mother of a police officer, republican, soldier, loyalist or completely uninvolved civilian are the same,” he said.
Visit www.crowsonthewire.co for performance details.