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Sensitive, creative ideas for reforming the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland's police force, must not be allowed to wither along with the stunted promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

Many of the 175 recommendations made public recently go to the heart of the real and symbolic impediments to peace.

For all of the pragmatism and insight behind the proposals, they are at the mercy of parties who are masters at creating excuses not to act.

The 1998 Good Friday plan, which won Nobel Prizes for key negotiators, was a meticulously drawn schematic for Protestant and Catholic governance and power sharing. Virtually nothing has happened, with one exception.

Part of the plan created a commission to look at the overhaul of the RUC, long perceived as the visible sign of British and Protestant oppression of Northern Ireland Catholics.

Rethinking the RUC is not new. But previous government studies documented the RUC's failings as a law-enforcement agency. The commission, chaired by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, focused on integration of the police into a peace-seeking society. . . .

Changing the RUC is basic to a reformed society in Northern Ireland.

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