Belfast Telegraph

Head of Catholic Church in Ireland calls for return to 50-50 PSNI recruitment

Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop Eamon Martin

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has called for a return to the controversial 50-50 recruitment policy for the PSNI.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, writing in The Irish Catholic newspaper, said he was concerned about the amount of Catholic officers in the police in Northern Ireland.

Archbishop Martin, speaking after a meeting with PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne, said: "Because Patten's target of moving towards a police service that is representative of the society that it polices, I feel that in recent years it has reached a bit of a plateau and I would be concerned about that."

Catholics currently make up around 32% of the PSNI.

In September 1999, the report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, led by Lord Patten, called for major reforms and the beginning of the end of the RUC.

During Sir Hugh Orde's leadership of the PSNI between 2002 and 2009 there was legislation which helped take the proportion of Catholics in the police from 8% to 30%.

This legislation ended in 2011.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne address the Northern Ireland Policing Board (Niall Carson/PA)
Chief Constable Simon Byrne address the Northern Ireland Policing Board (Niall Carson/PA)

Archbishop Martin called for Catholics to consider the "noble vocation" and for communities to encourage and support that.

Speaking about the current figures, Archbishop Martin said: "If you think of that age group of young people in Northern Ireland, almost 50% of those young people are Catholic and I think it should be a matter of concern, not just for Catholic communities, but indeed for the whole community."

"Because if we do not have a police service which is representative of the society that it polices, you immediately begin to run into accusations that the police service is not friendly to Catholic people, or you allow a vacuum to be created which allows others to exploit intimidation and fear in communities."

In August, Simon Byrne said that he felt the PSNI was "not yet back at the point" where the 50-50 recruitment process needed to be reinstated. Mr Byrne also called for funds to increase police numbers to 7,500.

In September, Sir Hugh Orde said the number of PSNI officers was at a "dangerous level" and said the PSNI should consider re-introducing 50-50 recruitment.

A new PSNI recruitment drive is to be launched in January.

The former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.
The former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.

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