There is much evidence that the PSNI is not a welcoming police service for Catholics

Posted By: August 23, 2023



Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“The Northern Ireland Police is not a welcoming police

service for Catholics. This is the sad and troubling judgment  

of Brian Feeney in today’s Irish News of Belfast. Congress

should be very concerned.”—Fr. Sean McManus.

There is much evidence that the PSNI is not a welcoming police service for Catholics

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, August 23, 2023

All is not well within the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland].

It’s not just the Keystone Kops slapstick incompetence of laptops and notebooks being stolen from cars or flying from car roofs in the air above the M2, or the monumental data dump launched into the internet to remain for eternity.

True, all that is what has brought the PSNI to public attention in the last couple of weeks, but there are deeper, endemic problems.

Twenty-odd years after its establishment [2001], the PSNI is not what it was intended to be.

Yes, there have been substantial strides. As of June 1, this year there were 2,182 Catholics in the police – 32 percent – a huge improvement on the 8.3 percent when the RUC was disbanded. Unfortunately, there are too few Catholic staff in the PSNI – 502 or 19 percent of 2,629.

We all know when the rate of increase in police recruitment tailed off: after 2011 when the now disgraced Owen Paterson abolished 50:50 recruiting at the behest of the DUP, who would still wish to regard the PSNI as ‘their’ police.

However, there’s more to the decline in Catholic recruits than binning the 50:50 requirement. There is much evidence that the PSNI is not a welcoming police service for Catholics.

That’s not to say that strenuous efforts have not been made to entice young Catholics to join. Police visit schools, youth clubs and other venues to try to encourage school leavers to consider a career in policing, but it hasn’t worked and won’t work no matter how much ineffectual hand-wringing from the likes of Archbishop Martin [Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland] or former members of the Policing Board.

Here’s why. Some of the things that didn’t happen.

There was supposed to be an accelerated promotion for able Catholics. It didn’t happen.

There was supposed to be Garda secondment and Garda transfer. It didn’t happen. In fact, it went the other way with senior officers joining An Garda Síochána, most notably Drew Harris, now Garda Commissioner.

The very fact that you can’t for a millisecond contemplate the reverse happening tells you all you need to know. As a result, there are scarcely any Catholic role models. There are fewer than 10 Catholics above the rank of superintendent and fewer than 20 Catholic chief inspectors out of about 80 and so it goes on.

It is naïve in the extreme to claim that the fall-off in Catholic recruits is because of the fear of dissident republicans, that they are the sole cause of the PSNI’s woes. Most of the 2,182 Catholics will stay in the PSNI now, as they did when colleagues like Ronan Kerr, Peadar Heffron, and others were attacked or killed. Many joined despite the danger.

No. There is a problem with the prevailing culture in the PSNI which needs to be addressed.

For example, there is still denial at senior level of the systematic collusion in the RUC which Lord Stevens found during his 14-year battle to reveal the full extent of it: over 90 per cent of his reports remain secret.

There is hostility and obstruction in the PSNI to the Police Ombudsman’s office. The British government has run down funding for PSNI.

The PSNI delays, obstructs and appeals cases brought by relatives, the majority of whom are Catholic, killed by security forces.

There is sectarian banter and bullying of Catholic officers which is neither acknowledged, confronted nor dealt with by police management.

The Policing Board is a laughable paper tiger, its political members asleep at the wheel. That’s for starters.

It is nonsense to demand that the Irish government call on Catholics to join the PSNI when the Irish government knows exactly what has, and more importantly, hasn’t been happening since 2010.

Besides, the Irish government is fully aware of the provocatively obvious pro-unionist bias of Conservative proconsuls sent here and the fact that Conservative governments in the last 13 years allow the police to misbehave with impunity. It’s what Conservative governments do.