200 extra Catholics apply to join PSNI

200 extra Catholics apply to join PSNI

The number of Catholics applying to join Northern Ireland’s police service has risen by more than 200.

Almost one third of those who want to join are identified as Catholic, equating to 2,158.

PSNI deputy chief constable Mark Hamilton said he was pleased.

Chris Patten, a former Conservative Party chairman whose 1999 report on overhauling the RUC led to the creation of the PSNI and 50/50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants, said: “I am extremely pleased that the Police Commission Report which I chaired with great support from a number of others has turned out to be such a success.

“That is partly because of the leadership of the police and the support of the community.

There are obviously always going to be problems in policing any community but what has been achieved here has been outstanding.

In just over three weeks the force received 6,961 applications, an increase of over 700 from a 2018 recruitment campaign, the PSNI said.

An extra 223 were from Catholics.

Senior officers have expressed concern the proportion of Catholics applying has fallen back amid the continued threat from dissident republicans.

Measures have been put in place to encourage them to put their names forward in relative safety.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have called for the reintroduction of the 50-50 recruitment policy, which ran for 10 years until 2011.

Unionists have expressed concern.

At the time, Mr Patten produced his report only 8% of the force was Catholic, now it accounts for around 30%.

He said: “At the moment the Equality Commission and police service have done a very good job and they will want to keep an eye on whether they need to go back to 50/50 recruiting.”

The proportion of women applying has also increased on 2018, to around 40%.

Mr Hamilton said: “I am encouraged to see the number of people who have shown an interest in a career in the police service from across all sections of the community.”

Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly has been subjected to threats from dissident republicans after he lent support to the latest recruitment campaign and urged Catholics to sign up.

He said: “An accountable police service needs to be representative of the whole community it serves and representative in all grades and ranks also.

“The decision to abandon 50/50 recruitment was both political and wrong.”

It is anticipated that successful applicants will begin training from autumn 2020.

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