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DUP's Stalford says PSNI 50-50 recruitment will never return

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The 50-50 recruitment practice was dropped in 2011.

The 50-50 recruitment practice was dropped in 2011.

The 50-50 recruitment practice was dropped in 2011.

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford has said that 50-50 police recruitment will never return in Northern Ireland.

Mr Stalford was speaking after Justice Minister Naomi Long said she did not believe the reintroduction of the policy was necessary and political consensus around the issue did not exist.

"Obviously, if there were consensus among the political parties and key policing stakeholders that we should be contemplating this, we would have to give it due consideration, but it is clear that such a consensus does not exist at present," the Alliance leader said in response to Mr Stalford's written question on the issue.

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Justice Minister Naomi Long (Press Eye/PA)

Justice Minister Naomi Long (Press Eye/PA)

PA Media

Justice Minister Naomi Long (Press Eye/PA)

Mr Stalford said political consensus on the issue will never exist and as a result "50-50 discrimination is never coming back".

The DUP MLA said Mrs Long's answer sent a "powerful message" on the issue.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that during 50-50 recruitment Northern Ireland was the only place in Europe where it was legal to discriminate against groups based on their religion.

"It flew in the face of fairness and equality, it's important that we get the right people for the right roles based on merit regardless of their religion" the South Belfast MLA said.

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Christopher Stalford

Christopher Stalford

Christopher Stalford

Mr Stalford said he wanted to see a representative police force, but that it could be achieved in other ways.

He said that police outreach in under-represented areas could make an impact and called on political leaders in the nationalist community to play a greater role in encouraging people to join the police.

The DUP have had to swallow the word never on more than one occasion in the past. Dolores Kelly

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said that while it was correct there would never be political consensus for its return, unionists had to be open to the possibility it's reintroduction may be necessary in future to ensure a "legitimate and representative" police force.

The SDLP MLA said "the DUP have had to swallow the word never on more than one occasion in the past".

Mrs Kelly said based on current trends Catholics could make up just 19% of the PSNI in five years time.

She said she hoped it wouldn't be necessary for the policy to be reintroduced and a number of other options were being explored to boost the number of Catholics in the force.

"If the trend continues then the number of Catholic PSNI Officers will force Mrs Long to think again," the Upper Bann MLA said.

"It's hard for young Catholics looking to join the police, there are not a lot of role models out there to turn to for advice the dissident threat puts other off and causes them to drop out. They need to be supported."

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Dolores Kelly

Dolores Kelly

Liam McBurney

Dolores Kelly

Mrs Kelly said it was encouraging that around a third of applicants in the most recent PSNI recruitment process were from a Catholic background.

She said that Mrs Long's response had not ruled out revisiting the issue in future.

Sinn Fein policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly said his party believed 50-50 recruitment should not have ended.

The North Belfast MLA said it was "was necessary to address decades of 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".

“In our recent meetings with the PSNI they recognised the need to tackle the barriers to recruitment clearly designated in recent surveys and representations by Sinn Fein,” he said.

Mr Kelly and Sinn Fein vice-President Michelle O'Neill's attendance at a PSNI recruitment event in January was seen as a groundbreaking step in encouraging Catholics to join the police. Threats were issued against the pair following the event.

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Dolores Kelly; Mervyn Storey; First Minister Arlene Foster; PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne; Policing Board chair Anne Connolly; Gerry Kelly; Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, and Deputy Chief Constable-elect Mark Hamilton at the PSNI recruitment drive

Dolores Kelly; Mervyn Storey; First Minister Arlene Foster; PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne; Policing Board chair Anne Connolly; Gerry Kelly; Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, and Deputy Chief Constable-elect Mark Hamilton at the PSNI recruitment drive

Dolores Kelly; Mervyn Storey; First Minister Arlene Foster; PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne; Policing Board chair Anne Connolly; Gerry Kelly; Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, and Deputy Chief Constable-elect Mark Hamilton at the PSNI recruitment drive

The 50-50 mechanism was established in 2001 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 the Protestant community.

At the time the policy was introduced Catholics made up around 8% of the police force. The policy was then dropped in 2011.

Around 32% of PSNI officers are currently from the Catholic community.

Belfast Telegraph