Dissidents “real risk” now police numbers so low

Posted By: September 13, 2019

Paul Ainsworth. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, September 13, 2019

Former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde has warned there is a “real risk” that the threat from dissident republicans will increase while the number of PSNI officers is at a level he describes as “dangerous”.

Sir Hugh, who headed the service between 2002 and 2009, has said the political situation regarding Brexit could be exploited by dissidents.

The Patten policing reforms, which led to the creation of the PSNI in 2001, recommended that the service should have 7,500 officers. The service is 800 below that target.

Sir Hugh also suggested the 50:50 recruitment policy could be reintroduced, despite having been ruled out by current chief constable

Simon Byrne.

In a BBC interview, Sir Hugh said: “When I took over I had over 9,000 police officers and a full-time reserve which also had to be disbanded under one of the many Patten


He continued: “I think to drop below 7,500 is dangerous. I would have fought tooth and nail to prevent that, as I know the chief officers did.”

Among the most controversial of the reforms recommended by the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, chaired by Conservative politician Chris Patten, was the “50:50” recruitment model designed to increase the number of Catholics in the service.

That policy served to boost the number of Catholic officers to 30 percent before it ended in 2011, and there have been recent calls for the

re-introduction of the policy by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly.

Sir Hugh said it is “a shame” Catholic recruitment is slowing down.

Speaking of the dissident threat during his tenure, he continued: “They failed for two reasons – the PSNI and the community. The community would not want to go back and was absolutely determined to stay moving forward with us and our other colleagues to make sure Northern Ireland remained a safer place.”

He added: “But the threat is still there and with the current politics and with the complexity of Brexit being woven into that, I think there’s a real risk that the threat will increase, and I’m not persuaded the number [of PSNI

officers] they currently have is sufficient.”