Catholics make up just third of applicants in PSNI's jobs drive
Less than a third of people who applied to join the PSNI during a high-profile recruitment campaign were Catholic.
Almost 5,500 applications were received during the four-week window. Nearly two-thirds came from the Protestant community, prompting nationalists to call for a return to 50/50 recruitment, which ended in 2011.
The recruitment campaign ran from September 30 to October 23, with 743 applications received in the first 24 hours.
Yesterday the PSNI revealed 5,498 people had applied to join, and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said he was "greatly encouraged" by the number of applications.
But a breakdown showed 3,590 applicants (65.3%) described themselves as Protestant and 1,749 (31.8%) as Catholic. The other 2.9% were "undetermined".
Sinn Fein said the numbers highlighted the need for a return to 50/50 recruitment.
Policing Board member Gerry Kelly added: "It should not have stopped and, indeed, it should be reintroduced.
"What is needed in a police service is that it is representative of the community. That should be the basis of any recruitment process. Those tasked with recruiting should be targeting under-represented areas and groups to make the body of the police reflective of those they serve."
But Mr Kelly's remarks were criticised by DUP MLA and fellow Policing Board member Jonathan Craig, who said the policy discriminated against Protestants.
"The so-called party of equality appears to think that you need to discriminate," he added. "Are they saying they are the party of discrimination? The truth is that the level of applicants from Roman Catholics is almost the same as it was under 50/50 recruitment.
"The 50/50 recruitment policy never increased the number of Catholics applying. What it did was totally discriminate against those from the Protestant community who also applied."
A previous recruitment campaign in May 2014 saw 5,856 applications, including 29.3% from the Catholic community. And last month this newspaper reported that, of 401 new recruits since 2013, just 77 were Catholic.
However, Justice Minister David Ford previously ruled out a return to 50/50 recruitment, saying that while he wanted a police service that was representative, he did not believe that discrimination "was the way to do it". Figures released yesterday also showed that more men applied to join the PSNI than women - 64.3% compared to 35.7%.
ACC Hamilton said: "We received a total of 5,498 applications to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
"I am greatly encouraged that in a period of just four weeks we have had so many people show, and that they are prepared to step up to the challenge of a career in policing within the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
"Each of the applicants has now started their journey through a rigorous and challenging process."