Chair hosts reception for the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Associations in Omagh and Fermanagh
26th May 2022
Recently the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council hosted a reception for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) George Cross Association branches in Fermanagh and Omagh to mark the centenary of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to acknowledge the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association.
Below is the text of the speech delivered by Councillor Thompson at the reception:
Distinguished guests, fellow Councillors, ladies and gentlemen
As Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, I am delighted to welcome you all here to Strule Arts Centre, Omagh this evening for this special reception to mark the centenary of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and recognise the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was formed on 1 June 2022 following the partition of Ireland and it had a dual security and civil policing role. In 1970, the Hunt Report made changes to policing in Northern Ireland including new controls and rank structures, the transfer of security back to the Police with Army support and the development of specialist units to deal with serious crime, public disorder, terrorism and community relations.
In 1999 the RUC was awarded the George Cross in recognition of the collective and sustained bravery of the Force including the families and it became officially known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross.
In the same year, the Patten Report recommended major changes to Policing in Northern Ireland including the change of the operational title to the Police Service of Northern Ireland which was implemented on 4 November 2001.
The RUC George Cross Association was established for the purposes of marking the sacrifice and honouring the achievements of those who served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It also has a role to ensure that those who served in the RUC, or indeed any Police Service on the island of Ireland, have an association which binds them together and can provide the security which was and is required by those who served in challenging conditions.
I understand the Omagh Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association was one of the first to be established following the transition from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It was the late Brian Maguire MBE who is regarded as the founding father of the Omagh Branch and he was also involved in the creation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association having attended the initial event in Greenmount Lodge to discuss the idea. Lord Cranborne, 7th Marquis of Salisbury became the Patron on the Association and His Grace The Duke of Abercorn is the Patron of the Omagh Branch and is very supportive of all its activities.
The Enniskillen Branch was formed in 2001 and I am delighted that Mr George Elliott MBE, one of the founding members, current Secretary and current Chair of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association Coordinating Group is with us tonight. I understand the initial meetings of the Fermanagh Branch took place in the former Railway Hotel and, although you started with small numbers, the Branch has grown over the years.
From the formation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to its incorporation into the Police Service of Northern Ireland, I understand over 300 members of the Force paid the ultimate sacrifice and approximately 8,000 were injured. An important role for both Branches is the Acts of Remembrance, which involve the laying of wreaths and the placing of memorial crosses on their graves, to acknowledge the sacrifice that so many Officers from the District made. I understand that within the Omagh District, Station Crests have been dedicated in Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Clogher, Newtownstewart, Castlederg and two in Omagh and it is hoped that another one will be dedicated before the end of this year.
Another important role of the Association Branches is the invaluable welfare support you provide to the families and widows who have lost their loved ones during service and I understand the Fermanagh Branch sends out text messages to mark the anniversaries and also visits the widows to provide a source of comfort.
I also know that both Branches meet monthly, enjoy trips away and social events and you hold annual church services which I have had the honour of attending in both Enniskillen and Omagh.
From its creation, the story of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been one of people and of serving the community with the Officers being at the forefront of some of the most traumatic experiences. Alongside the stories of great sacrifices, there are the stories of camaraderie, friendship and global recognition and achievement.
I would like to extend my appreciation to you for your dedication and hard work to ensure that the Omagh and Fermanagh branches of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Association can continue to provide the much needed support network for retired Personnel and their families and ensure that the history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is preserved.
I would also like to take this opportunity to commend all the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Police Service of Northern Ireland Officers, including those who lost their lives while serving their country, for their selfless and dedicated service to ensure the safety and security of our communities. Your courage, resilience and professionalism will not be forgotten and we are all indebted to you for the sacrifices you and your families have made for us.