DUP challenges Sinn Fein over PSNI Catholic recruitment after chief constable criticism
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey has challenged Sinn Fein to state the last occasion the party was represented at a PSNI graduation ceremony after the chief constable said those in the nationalist community should encourage more Catholics to join police ranks.
Around 32% of PSNI officers are currently from the Catholic community, but they make up around half of the population of Northern Ireland.
Mr Hamilton said the intake rate of those from the Catholic community "falls well below" what it should be.
SDLP policing spokesperson Dolores Kelly called for the return of 50-50 recruitment, which was discontinued in 2011, to boost the number of Catholics joining the force.
In response to George Hamilton's comments, Sinn Fein's policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly accused the Chief Constable of trying to "deflect from failings" within policing.
Mervyn Storey, who sits on the Policing Board, said Sinn Fein have failed to demonstrate "real leadership" on the issue.
Today is the latest PSNI passing out parade and there is one simple question that Sinn Fein could answer. When was the last occasion that Sinn Fein was represented at one of the PSNI passing out ceremonies? Mervyn Storey
"The cancellation of PSNI recruitment events in Londonderry have been forced by so-called 'micro-groups' yet those who claim to speak for the majority of nationalists and republicans do not step forward and demonstrate real leadership," he said.
"Today is the latest PSNI passing out parade and there is one simple question that Sinn Fein could answer. When was the last occasion that Sinn Fein was represented at one of the PSNI passing out ceremonies?"
Gerry Kelly said it is not "the job of any political party to recruit for the PSNI".
He said: “It is the PSNI which has failed to disclose all relevant information relating to legacy cases, has arrested journalists who bring the truth about collusion to the public, has an ongoing under-representation of nationalists, particularly at senior positions where less than 20% are from a nationalist background and only one in five nationalists are successful in the PSNI recruitment process.
“These are the failings within policing which erode confidence in the PSNI within the nationalist community.
“If the new PSNI Chief Constable genuinely wants to create a representative policing service, which polices with the community and enjoys the confidence and support of the entire community then these are the issues he will need to prioritise in the time ahead.”
Honoured to address my last Attestation Ceremony at which 45 new officers accepted the privileges & responsibility of the office of Constable. 21 of the 45 happened to be women - progress but still work towards a more representative PSNI. 4/6 of top performing officers were woman pic.twitter.com/g8EARb0Ctw— Sir George Hamilton (@SirGHamilton) June 7, 2019
Mervyn Storey also criticised the SDLP's call for a return to 50-50 recruitment as a "knee-jerk response" that seeks to "outsource responsibility to discriminatory legislation".
Dolores Kelly said she "rejects utterly" the "sneering from the DUP" at the SDLP's commitment to police reform and support for young officers from a Catholic background.
"I find it absolutely incredible that these lazy and dangerous criticisms continue to be levelled in spite of the years of risks we’ve taken to transform policing and encourage young nationalists to join the PSNI," she said.
"The truth is these claims are baseless when it comes to the SDLP. And their only purpose is to distract from the evidence that ending 50-50 policing has had a detrimental impact on the makeup of the PSNI.
"We warned the British Government against it. It’s time for a rethink.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital