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Lack of Catholics in police is a mystery

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 06/09/2016

Few young Catholics are coming forward to join the PSNI
Few young Catholics are coming forward to join the PSNI

There are several reasons why a young man or woman might want to join the PSNI. It is a well paid and secure job by today's standards in Northern Ireland. It has a sense of adventure attached to it and officers rightly feel that they are contributing something valuable to their community.

As we have read in recent times there are a number of reasons why it may not be as an attractive career to some as they first hoped - there are many challenges in the job; there is an inherent danger in dealing with criminals and some of the events that officers experience can be traumatic.

But none of those drawbacks are specific to one side of the community; they apply right across the board.

So, the question puzzling senior officers is why so few young Catholics are coming forward to join the PSNI.

This is vastly different from the experience of a few years ago when the reform of the police service took place and Catholic representation on the force quickly rose from a miserly 8% to almost 30% by 2011 when the policy of 50/50 recruitment, introduced a decade earlier, was abandoned.

At the time the PSNI presumed that the policy had run its course and that Catholic/nationalist acceptance of the new force was at a sufficient level to ensure that more young recruits from those areas would continue to come forward. But that clearly is not the case any longer.

Of course there is one obvious deterrent, a fear factor engendered by the continuing dissident republican campaign. It is clear from the deaths of Catholic officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr and the serious injuries suffered by another Catholic Peadar Heffron that the dissidents specifically target officers from within their own community. In a small community like Northern Ireland it is easy for those determined to do so to identify police officers. Catholic officers may have to move away from their natural community in order to feel more secure and that upheaval may add to the deterrent effect.

Yet it has to be acknowledged that the PSNI enjoys unprecedented cross-community support with many nationalists openly joining in social media discussions with officers. The force cannot be said to be a cold house for Catholics, so it will be interesting to see if consultants Deloitte can come up with compelling reasons why so few Catholics see the PSNI as a good career.

Belfast Telegraph

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