Northern Ireland

50-50 policing to end in six days says NI Secretary

Owen Paterson
Image caption Owen Paterson said special measures could no longest be justified

The policy of 50:50 Catholic/Protestant recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will end in six days' time.

On Tuesday, NI Secretary Owen Paterson said it was the right time to end the policy as almost 30% of officers are now from a Catholic background.

The policy was one of the recommendations for policing reform made in the 1999 Patten report.

Mr Paterson said the police force in NI could now develop naturally.

"With this transformation in the composition of the PSNI and NI's continued political progress, the use of these special measures can no longer be justified," Mr Paterson said in a written statement at Westminster.

The current 50-50 recruitment process was introduced to increase the numbers of Catholics joining the police.

When it was introduced in 2001, Catholics made up about 8% of the police service. By 2010, the level had risen to just over 27%.

Currently, 29.76% of officers come from the Catholic community.

Mr Paterson's statement came after a consultation process closed on 4 February. In total, 162 responses were received.

'Reflective'

Justice Minister David Ford welcomed the news.

"Northern Ireland has changed significantly since the provisions were first introduced in 2001 and I believe the PSNI will continue to attract excellent applicants from all sections of our community without the use of the temporary provisions," he said.

"I am acutely aware of the value of having a police service which is reflective of the entire community and with the community in Northern Ireland becoming more diverse, this becomes increasingly important.

"The PSNI will continue with their outreach work and I have no doubt that community leaders will continue to encourage their communities to apply to join the PSNI and give the PSNI their support."

The DUP's Alastair Ross, who sits on the Policing Board also welcomed an end to what he said was "institutionalised discrimination".

He said: "Whilst I would like to see a police force which recruits from throughout the community, discriminating against candidates on the basis of religion or community background was wrong, is wrong and will always be wrong."

Sinn Fein policing spokesperson Alex Maskey said it was not the right time to end 50-50 recruitment.

He said a police service "cannot simply expect the total support of the community if it is not fully representative of that community".

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