12/11/2010

End Of PSNI Recruitment Bias Opposed

Both a Sinn Fein NI Policing Board member and an SDLP spokesman have wasted no time in criticising yesterday morning's statement by the NIO Secretary of State, Owen Paterson on ending the controversial 50/50 Catholic/Non Catholic recruitment to the PSNI.

While a senior DUP spokesman and Westminster MP has taken a strong stance in support of scrapping the officially sanctioned recruitment bias, the West Belfast MLA, Alex Maskey has stressed the continued need for the police to be what he called "truly representative of the community here".

Mr Maskey's comments came after Owen Paterson said that he was "minded" not to renew the provisions for 50/50 recruitment to the PSNI a move Alex Maskey slammed as "yet another indication of the arrogance of a British Tory Minister attempting to impose their will on important issues".

"What is central in all of this is the continued need for the PSNI to be truly reflective of and responsible to the broader community. As yet that is not the case, 29% representation of those from a Catholic background is not a satisfactory reflection."

Owen Paterson called on Thursday for consultations on the scrapping of 50/50 employment provisions in the PSNI and said it is his intention to take views on the temporary provisions of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, which include the 50/50 provisions and that he might not renew the provisions, which will expire on 28 March 2011.

Owen Paterson said: "The last ten years have seen significant change in the composition of the PSNI.

"At the time of the Patten report, Catholic composition in the Royal Ulster Constabulary stood at just 8.3%.

"Today, over 29% of serving officers in the PSNI are from a Catholic background.

"This is within the target range set out by Patten and the PSNI is now broadly reflective of the community it serves. The provisions have clearly played an important role in getting us to this point, but it was always envisaged that they would be of a temporary nature," he said.

"NI has enjoyed significant political stability and normality in recent years.

"The transfer of policing and justice powers to a locally elected Minister on 12 April put in place the final piece of the new policing structures envisaged in both the Patten Report and the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

"In this context, and nearly a decade after their introduction, now is the time to consider the future of the temporary provisions," he said, noting they were last consulted on by the previous administration in 2009.

Meanwhile, there has been comment on the negative impact of the officially-backed recruitment bias on the Protestant community - which has suffered in pursuit of the Patten recommendations.

East Antrim MP and Stormont Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson said that 50/50 was blatant positive discrimination which should have no place in society: "We should seek to recruit the best people for the job and their religion should not be a factor that is taken into consideration when they are applying," he said, yesterday afternoon.

"The response of some political parties has been sadly predictable," he continued.

"It is disappointing but not surprising that the SDLP are opposed to appointing people to jobs on the basis of merit rather than religion."

The DUP MP was referring to comments from the SDLP Policing Spokesperson Dominic Bradley's which roundly criticised Owen Paterson: "One of the major achievements of the Peace Process to date has been the changing of the nature and composition of the police service here. 50/50 recruitment has played a major role in that change and this recruitment policy should not be ended.

"At present only 29% of the PSNI is made up of Catholics - that is far from being broadly representative of the community. The SDLP believes that the percentage of Catholics in the PSNI should be between 40 and 44%."

(BMcC/KMcA)

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