PSNI recruitment: Catholic primate urges return to 50:50 recruitment

Posted By: December 15, 2019

 On April 22, 1999, I had the honor of testifying  before the House International Relations (Foreign Affairs), chaired by the late great Jewish-American, Ben Gilman (R-NY) on “CREATING A NEW AND ACCEPTABLE POLICE SERVICE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND.”

I began my testimony with the following words: ‘If the peace-process in Northern Ireland is to succeed — and if the great promise of the Good Friday Agreement is to be fulfilled — it is absolutely essential that there be a police service that is acceptable to the Catholic/Nationalist community. There has never been such a police service in Northern Ireland — and that has always been one of the fundamental causes of The Troubles. Indeed, the police personify what the conflict is about — the imbalance of power between the two communities and the inequality and sectarianism of the State of Northern Ireland.’ (Click or Copy and paste this link into your browser
The hated sectarian anti-Catholic RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary)—over 90% Protestant and 100% Unionist— was disbanded on November 4, 2011, and replaced by the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). The first PSNI-trained officers took up duty in April 2002. The PSNI—based on the recommendations of the Patten Report— definitely represented improvement and progress. However, Patten’s key proposal of eventually achieving ’50:50 recruitment’ was reneged on by the DUP. And today Catholics who are almost 50% of the population—currently make up about 32% of the PSNI, approximately 2,186 Catholics, with relatively few Catholics in top positions…. This has led to the Catholic Primate of all Ireland calling for the return of the 50:50 recruitment, as this attached article explains.”—Fr. Sean McManus.
BBC.NI. Belfast.  Sunday, December 15, 2019
 Catholics currently make up about one-third of the PSNI [which has 6, 832 members]

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has called for a return to 50:50 recruitment in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Archbishop Eamon Martin was writing in The Irish Catholic newspaper, following a meeting of church leaders with Chief Constable Simon Byrne.

Catholics currently make up about 32% of the PSNI [approximately 2,186 Catholics].

The archbishop said he had “concerns” about the future balance of community representation.

The PSNI replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary in November 2001, and the 50-50 recruitment policy ran for its first 10 years until 2011.

It meant one Catholic recruit for every one person from a Protestant or other backgrounds.

Writing in the Irish Catholic, Archbishop Martin called for Catholics to consider the “noble vocation” and for communities to encourage and support them.

Archbishop Martin told The Irish Catholic: “Because Patten’s target of moving towards a police service that is representative of the society that it polices, I feel that in recent years it has reached a bit of a plateau and I would be concerned about that.”

Speaking about the current figures, the archbishop added: “It’s almost 20% short of the percentage of young Catholics who are out there.

“If you think of that age group of young people in Northern Ireland, almost 50% of those young people are Catholic and I think it should be a matter of concern, not just for Catholic communities, but indeed for the whole community.

“Because if we do not have a police service which is representative of the society that it polices, you immediately begin to run into accusations that the police service is not friendly to Catholic people, or you allow a vacuum to be created which allows others to exploit intimidation and fear in communities.”

Michael Kelly, the editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence program: “If Catholics are substantially underrepresented by the people who police the community, then that is inevitably going to lead to a breach of trust.”

In August, the current chief constable said that he felt the PSNI was “not yet back at the point” where it needed to reintroduce the 50-50 recruitment process.

Mr. Byrne has said he wants money to increase police numbers to the 7,500 suggested under Patten reforms two decades ago.

In September of this year, ex-PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said officer numbers were at a “dangerous” level in the face of increased dissident republican attacks.

He also said consideration should be given to re-introducing the hiring policy to address low numbers of Catholic recruits, adding that it was “a shame” Catholic recruitment is slowing down”.

In September 1999, the report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, chaired by Lord Patten, signaled major reforms and the beginning of the end of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

The Police Service of Northern Ireland replaced the RUC in November 2001.

A new PSNI recruitment drive is to be launched in January.