Watch an emotional ex-Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan recall origin of RUC Garden of Remembrance

Former Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan claims he was approached by a senior member of the DUP and asked to take a judicial review to overturn the appointment of Sir Hugh Orde as chief constable of the force.

By Philip Bradfield
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 3:04 pm
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 10:20 am

Mr McQuillan was speaking as part of a new BBC documentary looking at the first 20 years of the PSNI, presented by Stephen Nolan. The DUP has firmly rejected the allegation.

Mr Nolan interviews former Chief Constables Sir Ronnie Flanaghan, Sir Hugh Orde, Sir George Hamilton and current Chief Constable Simon Byrne on the big issues they faced during their tenure.

In the film, PSNI – Twenty Years On The Frontline, Alan McQuillan said: “I was approached by a senior member of a unionist party and asked to take a judicial review to try and overturn his appointment [in 2002].”

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Former RUC chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan was speaking in a new BBC documentary to be screened tonight.

When asked which party, he answers: “It was the DUP of course.”

“They asked me if I was prepared to take a judicial review and I said I didn’t think it would succeed and secondly I wasn’t going to risk £30,000 on that and I was told money could be made available. At that point I realised, I didn’t hesitate, I just said ‘No. I’m not doing that’.”

When asked why they didn’t want Sir Hugh Orde in the job, Mr McQuillan said, “He wasn’t their man. That simple. It’s vying for position.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said in respone: “I was on the panel that selected Hugh Orde. Alan McQuillan is talking nonsense. If he wanted to Judically Review the Chief Constable appointment that is a matter for him. Why has his conscious only been pricked 20 years later? As ACC at the time, the appropriate thing to do would have been to notify his boss and particularly the Chairman of the Policing Board.”

Former ACC Alan McQuillan claimed the DUP tried to block the appointment of Hugh Orde as PSNI Chief Constable. Photo: BBC

Sir Hugh Orde began his policing career with the Metropolitan Police in 1977 and became a deputy assistant commissioner in 1999. Before joining the PSNI he had day to day responsibility for the investigation into allegations of collusion between loyalists and elements of the security forces under Met commissioner, Sir John Stevens. He was appointed PSNI Chief Constable in 2002.

The documentary examines how and why the change in policing in Northern Ireland came about and  looks back at some of the newsworthy, controversial and sometimes traumatic events that have marked the first two decades of the PSNI.

The hour-long film charts the events leading up to the PSNI’s establishment, including the republican and loyalist ceasefires, the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Patten Report and the political debate which took place before the recommendations from the report were implemented.

The film features interviews with members of the PSNI who have served in both its junior and senior ranks.

Mr McQuillan claimed that ex-Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, above, “wasn’t their man”.

Stephen Nolan speaks to police officers who have lost family members, colleagues and sustained injuries as part of their work.

The film includes people with different views about policing and the role of the PSNI. And it looks at allegations of collusion involving some RUC officers, the handling of flag protests and issues around the PSNI’s enforcement of Covid 19 regulations.

The film contains some new revelations about policing during the last 20 years will also feature an interview with Lord Patten (Chris Patten) whose recommendations within the Patten Report, published in 1999, were the blueprint for the PSNI.

In December The Policing Board was told that the PSNI could lose 900 officers over the next three years due to a budget shortfall. The loss would be a “disaster for policing and the entire community”, Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said.

Broadcaster Stephen Nolan has reviewed the first twenty years of the PSNI. Photo: BBC

The following is a transcript of the interview:

Alan McQuillan: I was approached by a senior member of a unionist party and asked to take a judicial review to try and overturn his appointment

Stephen Nolan: Who approached you?

AMQ: I’m not going to say who it was.

SN: Which party. Tell me which party?

AMQ: It was the DUP of course.

SN: What did they say to you?

AMQ: They said to me, they fed me a line about how the process had been conducted, the selection process. It hadn’t been right but these things happen and they asked me if I was prepared to take a judicial review and I said I didn’t think it would succeed and secondly I wasn’t going to risk £30,000 on that and I was told money could be made available. At that point I realised, I didn’t hesitate, I just said no. I’m not doing that.”

SN: So the DUP didn’t want Sir Hugh Orde in the job?

AMQ: No, they didn’t want Sir Hugh Orde in the job, no

SN: Why not?

AMQ: He wasn’t their man. That simple. It’s vying fOr position.

The DUP deny the claims.

• PSNI – 20 Years On The Frontline is a Third Street Production for BBC NI. It will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday 24 January at 10.35pm.

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