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ANALYSIS: Summer of change for NI policing

Brian Rowan looks at the future of policing in Northern Ireland. Credit: Presseye

It is almost 20 years since the Patten Report proposed sweeping reforms across policing.

Its pages recommended the end of the RUC title and there were proposals for 50/50 recruitment and a new accountability and oversight structure.

New policing was to sit alongside the new politics - all part of the new peace of this place.

That peace is still imperfect.

The political institutions at Stormont collapsed two years ago with the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister.

And the Chair of the Policing Board Anne Connolly has told UTV: "I think we would be going too far if we said we were at a new policing beginning."

Of course, she recognises the many changes, but she also understands what still needs to happen.

The dissident republican threat is "a great barrier" in the way of achieving the fully representative police service envisaged by Patten: "People are frightened," Anne Connolly tells View From Stormont.

Then, there is the question of legacy - that unanswered past that keeps tripping up the present.

It is the weight that often holds down the new policing project - that traps it in the conflict years.

On View From Stormont (tonight at 10.45pm), Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire speak about the latest disclosure controversy but, also, the absence of a structured legacy process.

More than a decade has passed since Eames/Bradley began the first major consultation on Northern Ireland's past.

There have been many negotiations and proposals since, but still no process.

The Northern Ireland Office is still assessing the responses to its recent consultation on the proposed structure to emerge from the Stormont House Agreement of several years ago, including a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR).

There are even suggestions of some possible further consultation.

And, in the absence of decisions and answers, policing is left with the past.

It was the subject of George Hamilton's first major speech as Chief Constable in 2014, when he warned of the dangers of delay and also spoke of the need for challenging conversations, including the one initiated several years ago by Attorney General John Larkin on drawing a line under conflict-era investigations.

The Chief Constable wasn’t calling for that, but encouraging people to talk about it.

In his latest interview, he says: "Interestingly, I think most of the political parties privately would concede that John Larkin had something that was worthy of further exploration but, of course, publicly and in terms of their mandate and their need to keep building their electoral base, nobody is going to come out publicly and say that."

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire described the current approach to legacy as "ad hoc".

"It's under-funded. It is lacking in coordination and, now, there are issues in relation to disclosure," he told View From Stormont.

Asked had politics failed policing on this question of legacy, Anne Connolly responded: "Well, at the minute, politics isn't really doing anything for anybody in Northern Ireland."

Almost 20 years after the Patten Report, ViewFrom Stormont speaks to the Chief Constable, the Police Ombudsman and the Chair of the Policing Board on the outstanding challenges - the depoliticisation of policing, the legacy question, that dissident threat and policing alongside MI5.

In a few months, all three will leave their posts - that summer of change at the very top.