Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Campbell rejects return to 'institutionalised sectarianism' of 50/50 police recruitment

By Gareth Cross

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has called for greater leadership within the nationalist community after it was suggested that the PSNI may consider the return of 50/50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that policy may have to be reintroduced as the PSNI launched a recruitment drive for 400 officers on Monday.

Recent efforts to recruit more Catholics into the force have failed, with only one in five successful in merit-based competitions.

The 50/50 mechanism was established in following the independent Patten report into policing in Northern Ireland as part of an effort to re-balance a force largely comprised of members of one side of the community.

The policy was then dropped in 2011.

Mr Martin noted that it had delivered a significant increase in Catholic representation, from 8% to 32%.

East Londonderry MP Campbell pointed to comments made by Chief Constable George Hamilton, who in June told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster that there was a “real need for wider nationalism to take yet another step in terms of policing”.

The Chief Constable said that it required “politicians, civic leaders and church leaders to advocate for a career in policing”, and “it is that level of advocacy that I think we need to really make a sea-change”.

Mr Campbell said that nationalist representatives needed to "become real advocates for people from the Catholic community to choose policing as a career."

"Not only was the previous 50/50 recruitment institutionalised sectarianism, but it was totally counter-productive in that people from the Protestant community who had applied and were assessed as being suitable, were ruled out purely because they were Protestant," the DUP stalwart said.

"It was then, and remains now, a totally outrageous and unacceptable way to deal with recruitment. If it were to be considered again how many other areas of employment where Protestants are under-represented would have to be considered as well?"

Mr Campbell also noted Mr Martin’s comments that Catholics who joined the PSNI were finding they had to stop participating in some “cultural” activities.

He said that it had "echoes of the comments from Peadar Heffron and how he was ostracised by members of his GAA club after joining the PSNI".

Mr Heffron was a Catholic serving PSNI officer when he was left with life changing injuries after being targeted in a dissident republican car bomb in 2010.

He said that he was warned against joining the PSNI by republican activists at a training session of his local GAA club which led to him leaving the team.

DUP MP Campbell said that a reintroduction of the scheme would do nothing to tackle existing issues.

"A reintroduction of 50/50 recruitment would do nothing to change such mind-sets; in fact it would exacerbate them, it needs the type of leadership outlined by the Chief Constable in June," he said.

However, Sinn Fein policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly said that his party did not believe 50/50 recruitment should have been brought to an end.

“50/50 recruitment was necessary to address decades if imbalance in the make-up of the police and was only one part of wholesale reforms in an effort to bring about an accountable policing service committed to policing with the community," the North Belfast MLA said.

“Sinn Fein welcomes positive measures taken to address barriers to recruitment, but we need more action to remove these barriers.

“The PSNI has a job of work to do by being pro-active in tackling the barriers to recruitment clearly designated in recent surveys and representations by Sinn Fein.”

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