Belfast Telegraph

Police recruiting 'to be limited'

The number of police officers recruited in Northern Ireland will be low for the next eight years, it has been claimed.

Only 50 to 60 will be admitted annually following a major overhaul of the force, said the DUP. East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "There will be a small tranche of recruits assuming the current climate remains unchanged."

He warned that depended on the dissident republican threat, with the danger high at present after several security alerts this week which brought parts of Belfast to a standstill.

The Government at Westminster has ended 50/50 recruitment which favoured Catholic applicants over Protestants in order to increase the numbers of Catholic people joining the force. It was one of the recommendations for policing reform made in the 1999 Patten report.

When it was introduced in 2001, Catholics made up about 8% of the police service. By 2010, the level had risen to just over 27%. Currently, 29.76% of officers come from the Catholic community.

Sinn Fein policing spokesperson Alex Maskey has said it is not the right time to end the practice. He said a police service cannot simply expect the total support of the community if it is not fully representative.

DUP South Belfast representative Jimmy Spratt said over the next eight or nine years he expected 50 to 60 new officers a year to be recruited. He said the workforce will be kept at around 7,200 police officers and there will be some more police classes going into service over the next couple of months.

North Down DUP representative Peter Weir welcomed the end of 50/50. He said: "Choosing someone to be your police officer on the grounds of what church they go to is to my mind as illogical as choosing a police officer on the colour of their eyes or the colour of the tint of their hair. It is something that does not add up and as such the discrimination against the Protestant community in Northern Ireland has been palpable."

He said the process was not good for Protestants or Catholics who had to live with the feeling that they were not good enough.

Ulster Unionist East Antrim candidate Rodney McCune rebuffed Mr Campbell's criticism and said "The late William Thompson, a very able former MP for West Tyrone, was at the heart of our House of Commons team opposing 50/50 during many passionate debates on the legislation which resulted in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. At the same time, as I recall, the DUP Westminster team - which at that time included Peter Robinson - barely moved a muscle to oppose 50/50."

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