Nelson McCausland: Sinn Fein wants return of 50:50 recruitment in PSNI... reason enough not to reintroduce it
Republicans need to see 'positive discrimination' reinstated so they can besmirch RUC's memory
On October 1 the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched a new recruitment campaign for 400 officers and this led to some discussion about the level of recruitment among Catholics.
Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that Catholic recruitment had stalled and called for those with influence in the Catholic community to advocate and encourage people to consider joining the police. Indeed, he made specific mention of the role of Sinn Fein.
However, in a comment that was both unwise and unhelpful, he added that a return to a 50:50 recruitment process should not be ruled out.
The Patten Report, which was published in 1999 and led to the creation of the PSNI in 2001, recommended 50:50 recruitment for a period of 10 years to increase the percentage of Catholics in the service.
This was adopted by the United Kingdom Government and so 50% of recruits had to be from the Catholic community. Minister of State Adam Ingram stated in the Commons that this was "positive discrimination" and it continued for 10 years until 2011.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein held back on support for the PSNI until 2007. Even then its support was less than wholehearted. Gerry Adams told party meetings that they intended "putting manners" on the police and one delegate at the ard fheis said that they needed to get inside the "rat's nest" of the police force to destroy it.
So, where are we? A Deloitte report into police recruitment published in December 2016 showed that 31% of applicants were from the Catholic community, which was close to the 35% key performance indicator set for the previous recruitment campaign. However, when it came to appointments the figure dropped to 19%.
Research also revealed an under-representation of female officers, an underrepresentation of recruits from working-class Protestant communities and also from west of the Bann.
However, Sinn Fein latched on to the issue of Catholic recruitment, the SDLP followed, and they have continued to demand the return of "positive discrimination" in favour of Catholics.
In so doing they avoid the under-representation of women and the underrepresentation of working-class Protestants, which 50:50 will do nothing to address.
They also avoid the awkward questions about why this situation has arisen in the first place.
That is why it is worth recalling the comment of Chief Constable George Hamilton in November 2017 when he said that Sinn Fein and the GAA were failing to encourage nationalists to join the PSNI.
Indeed, he might have gone further and said that not only was Sinn Fein failing to encourage Catholics, by its actions it was really discouraging Catholics.
Sinn Fein wants to rewrite the history of the Troubles in order to sanitise and legitimise the IRA, and that requires it to demonise the RUC.
It also means that it wants to undermine the credibility of the PSNI and the force's investigations into the past.
Sinn Fein also wants to demonstrate to its core support that it is keeping faith with the past.
Just think of the Sinn Fein calendar of commemorations for IRA men, members of a terrorist organisation that murdered 277 police officers.
Furthermore, Sinn Fein wants to portray Northern Ireland as a "cold house for Catholics", and the reintroduction of 50:50 recruitment would be used by it as "proof" of that false assertion.
Connolly House is a "factory of grievances" and those manufactured grievances are a key part of the Sinn Fein strategy.
That's why Deputy Chief Constable Martin was unwise to say that 50:50 recruitment should not be ruled out.
If that is what Sinn Fein wants - and it does - then the possibility of 50:50 will merely be an incentive to continue its current approach.
It is certainly not an incentive for it to step up to the mark and demonstrate integrity and leadership by actively encouraging Catholic recruitment.
The way forward for recruitment in not through the return of institutionalised discrimination, but rather by pressing Sinn Fein to abandon its duplicity.
It talks a lot about honesty and integrity, but it shows very little sign of either.