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The Royal Ulster Constabulary was born in June 1922 in the traumatic aftermath of the secession of the Irish Free State from the United Kingdom. This new force inherited the ethos, uniform and badges of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Over the next eighty years the RUC served Northern Ireland's people though war and peace and, from 1969, against a backdrop of sectarian insurrection when it was a principal target. Although the RUC had encountered terrorism before, this was on a new scale and the next twenty-five years saw some 3,000 fatalities, a figure which included over 300 RUC members.
During this most testing period, men and women officers, as well as working with the Army and other agencies in an unremitting campaign against both loyalist and republican terror groups, provided normal policing cover. Where once a lone officer had patrolled a beat, the same role had now to be performed by a number of armed officers, often in armoured vehicles and always subject to terrorist attack. The RUC truly provided the thin green line‚ that prevented a descent into civil war and unimaginable chaos.
In 1999 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II announced that the RUC's outstanding contribution was to be recognised by the award of the George Cross, echoing the recognition of the island of Malta's courage during the Second World War. To symbolise the Force's sacrifice, courage and endurance, Her Majesty presented the Cross in April 2000 to a young officer who had lost his legs in a terrorist attack in which a female colleague had been murdered.
For political reasons the RUC GC was subsumed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland in November 2001 so bringing to an end an era of service to the community.
If ever an organisation deserved its history to be recorded, it is the RUC and The Thin Green Line – The History of the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC 1922-2001 is a most welcome and important memorial.
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