Belfast Telegraph

SF attacks police recruitment plans

Sinn Fein has attacked Government plans to drop a Catholic recruitment drive in the Northern Ireland police service, though the decision was welcomed by unionists.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said he planned to end the 50/50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants to the police by March 28, after a decade in which Catholic numbers rose from 8% to nearly 30%.

But with Catholics forming more than 40% of the Northern Ireland population, Sinn Fein branded the Government's move an insult. The DUP, however, welcomed the end of what it said was a discriminatory policy which it claimed disadvantaged Protestants.

The recruitment campaign emerged 10 years ago as part of reforms aimed at replacing the Royal Ulster Constabulary with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Senior Sinn Fein representative Alex Maskey, who sits on the Policing Board which oversees the new-look service, said Mr Paterson should have kept the policy in place until Catholic numbers were higher.

"Here we have another patrician announcement by another absentee British Government minister," he said.

But the DUP's Alastair Ross, who also sits on the Policing Board, welcomed the end of what he said was "institutionalised discrimination".

"The DUP has opposed the discriminatory 50/50 recruitment policy since its inception, and therefore welcome the end of this policy," he said.

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford also welcomed the move and said he agreed that the recruitment provisions were no longer needed.

He said: "The PSNI will continue with their outreach work and I have no doubt that community leaders will continue to encourage their communities to apply to join the PSNI and give the PSNI their support."

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