Editor's Viewpoint: Nationalists, and rest of society, must play part in working towards greater Catholic representation in our police force
Introducing quotas to redress historic imbalance in a workforce should be a measure of last resort, but given the past make-up of the police force in Northern Ireland it was a necessary move.
When the PSNI was formed only 8% of its officers were Catholics, but its advent gave society the opportunity to create a new ambience around policing by introducing a 50/50 recruitment policy.
It was a successful move, bringing Catholic representation up to 30%, but it has stalled since the policy was abandoned. Should it be re-introduced? There are arguments for and against but, such is the importance of a police force representative of all sections of the community, no measure should be dismissed out of hand.
What is undeniable is that every encouragement should be given to young nationalists to join the PSNI. Involvement in the force is imperative to increase public confidence in policing and to send a message to dissident republicans that they cannot intimidate a whole community.
Sinn Fein may have given backing to policing and justice in 2007 but it cannot now say that it is not the job of political parties to recruit officers for the PSNI. Surely civic nationalism including political parties and the Church should be keen to promote policing as a worthwhile career? To sit on the sidelines and continually complain about what they see as inadequacies in policing is dodging their responsibility to ensure policing operates to optimum standards.
It was obvious during the Troubles when the IRA targeted Catholic officers that they wanted to keep the numbers low to use as propaganda against the RUC. Dissidents use the same strategy today, killing and maiming Catholic officers and intimidating their families.
Refusal to encourage Catholics to join the PSNI is making the job of the dissidents easier. Quotas may have a part to play in increasing Catholic representation but support from all parts of nationalist society, and of the entire community, is the surest way to ensure greater equality.