Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Fr Magill right to tell Catholics to join PSNI

Fr Martin Magill
Fr Martin Magill

Editor's Viewpoint

Fr Martin Magill, who deservedly won widespread praise and a standing ovation for his address at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee in which he, in effect, criticised Northern Ireland's politicians for their lack of leadership, has shown the sort of leadership which is in such short supply in the province.

He unequivocally exhorted young Catholics to take up a career in the PSNI and help redress the under-representation of that community in the ranks of the police.

It was their opportunity he said 'to be the change you want to see'. As he pointed out, much was invested in the efforts to create a more balanced police force in the wake of the formation of the PSNI but recruitment has dropped off and the number of Catholics is still well short of their representation in wider society.

This newspaper applauds Fr Magill's comments which echo those made in this column on many occasions.

We believe that civic nationalism, churchmen and others of influence in the Catholic community, should encourage members of their community to join the police.

It would be a clear signal to everyone, most notably the nihilistic dissident republicans, that young nationalists as much as young unionists believe in fair and impartial policing and justice and want to be part of delivering that.

Fr Magill is not wearing rose-tinted glasses in making his call or in attending a PSNI attestation ceremony.

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He recognises that there are dangers, most acutely for Catholic police officers, in joining the force and that some are put off by fear.

But that is one of the weapons of the terrorists, instilling fear in the communities in which they operate.

That fear must be confronted and a police force with backing from all sides of society here can make the terrorists afraid instead.

But while policing must be in the vanguard of fighting terrorism, political developments are also required to alleviate the social deprivation which allows discontent to flourish and provides the recruiting ground for the men of violence.

Replacing guns and bombs with jobs, a better health service and better education is the challenge facing all politicians.

For those politicians in Sinn Fein and the SDLP the additional challenge is to follow Fr Magill's lead and unequivocally encourage Catholics to join the PSNI.

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