The Prince of Wales has praised the “acts of courage and heroism” of former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers at a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the police force.
Charles sent a message to mark 100 years since the RUC was formed, which was marked on Sunday with a commemoration service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast organised by the RUC George Cross Foundation.
He said: “In this centenary year, it is deeply appropriate that we mark together the sacrifices, honour the acts of courage and heroism and pay tribute to the achievements of all those who served in the RUC.
“We remember particularly the widows and families and those who supported the serving personnel with such fortitude and devotion.”
Please know that you are all very much in my thoughts as you commemorate this centenary of policing in Northern Ireland
Prince of Wales
The RUC was formed on June 1 1922, after the disbanding of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
As part of the wider peace process, the RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Charles spoke about recently meeting members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation, which he is patron of.
“It was a meeting that has left an indelible impression on me and, while I cannot be in Belfast today, please know that you are all very much in my thoughts as you commemorate this centenary of policing in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Hundreds of people attended the service, including church and political leaders.
Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle, the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, represented the Queen.
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne attended the service, as well as former PSNI chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan.
In a statement, the Chief Constable described the event as an “important opportunity to reflect on policing within Northern Ireland over the century”.
I would like to pay a special tribute to the family of fallen colleagues who have lived with the impact and loss of their loved ones
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
“Context and history is everything, we cannot understand today without looking back at yesterday.
“The invaluable contribution, sacrifice and progress made by the RUCGC has contributed to policing as we know it today.
“However, through much change, one thing has remained consistent, that is the unwavering commitment to public service of officers and staff,” he said.
“I would like to pay a special tribute to the family of fallen colleagues who have lived with the impact and loss of their loved ones,” he added.
Mr Byrne, who referenced “current political and budgetary challenges”, said he was committed to a “positive future for policing in Northern Ireland”.
— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) May 29, 2022
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was also at the event in Belfast.
A garda spokesperson confirmed that he received a formal invitation to attend the service.
In a sermon at the service, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell, expressed his own gratitude for the dedication of those who served.
Archbishop McDowell told the congregation: “They did it to keep their families safe, and because it was their conviction that if they didn’t serve, then the future was either going to be in the hands of a revolutionary junta or a rabble of gangsters and drug dealers. Both groups would have swept away much of what officers of the RUC GC have held dear.
“There is hardly a parish church in the dioceses where I served that does not have a grave in the churchyard or a memorial in the church building to a member of the RUC who was murdered, some in the most horrific of circumstances.
“Deaths which achieved nothing except to break hearts.”
Justice Minister Naomi Long attended the ceremony, as did her husband and Lord Mayor of Belfast Michael Long.
“Honoured to have been invited to attend the service today both as Minister of Justice and Lady Mayoress of Belfast,” the Alliance Party leader tweeted.