Police 50-50 recruiting system is to end

Owen Paterson Owen Paterson said the practice could no longer be justified

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The controversial 50-50 recruitment process for the PSNI ends on Monday after 10 years.

The process was introduced as part of the Patten policing reforms and was aimed at increasing the number of Catholic officers.

When it was first introduced, Catholics made up about 8% of the police.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson said that with almost 30% of officers now from a Catholic background, the practice could no longer be justified.

Nationalist politicians have viewed it as a success, but unionist politicians claimed it unfairly discriminated against Protestants.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was glad to see the end of "institutionalised state-sponsored discrimination in the 21st century".

He said it was "wrong" to prevent someone who has the qualifications for a job from "doing it simply because of their religious affiliation".

"I have met many young Protestants who applied to join the police, who went through all the exams and assessments and got into the merit pool and then were told 'I'm sorry you can't be a police officer becuase you are Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Baptist, Methodist'," he added.

"I have had young people in my office in tears because their future was being determined on a base sectarian decision."

SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said he understood the issue had been difficult for unionists, but that there was "every justification for continuing the policy".

He said the Patten Commission had recommended that "50-50 recruitment remain in place for 10 years at least".

"This is not sectarianism, this is a positive discrimination measure approved by the European authorities in terms of a critical public service after years of conflict," he added.

"People recognise that getting policing right was crucial for moving Northern Ireland forward and getting the number of Catholics in the police right was crucial as part of that strategy."

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