PSNI 50/50 recruitment policy ends
The 50/50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants to the police service in Northern Ireland is to cease within days, the Government has confirmed.
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said that having considered responses to a public consultation on the issue, he had decided to end the policy on March 28.
He said the strategy, introduced to boost Catholic membership when the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) replaced the predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 2001, had seen Catholic numbers rise to nearly 30%.
When the landmark Patten report on policing reform in Northern Ireland was unveiled in 1999 the RUC had around 13,000 police officers, with only 8% drawn from the Catholic community.
Mr Paterson said: "Some 10 years after the introduction of the provisions, a significant proportion of serving officers - currently 29.76% - are now from a Catholic community background.
"This is at the top end of the critical mass identified by Patten.
"It represents a tremendous change since the time of the Patten report when only 8.3% of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers were from a Catholic community background."
Politicians and interest groups had been divided over the removal of the recruitment policy. While unionists branded the policy discriminatory, others said Catholic numbers in the police remained below the Catholic share of the population which sits at over 40%.
But Mr Paterson said major change had been achieved in policing, while the growing political stability around the power-sharing arrangements at Stormont had also influenced his decision that the time was right for a change.