Denis Bradley says Sinn Féin needs to urge Catholics to join police
FORMER Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley has criticised Sinn Féin for its apparent failure to encourage Catholics to join the PSNI.
His comments come after chief constable George Hamilton said greater work was needed to ensure more nationalists applied for jobs with the force.
Mr Hamiliton told MPs last week that there is a "real need for wider nationalism to take yet another step in terms of policing".
He said the PSNI has seen "only marginal improvements in terms of representativeness" from Catholics, who make up around one third of PSNI job applicants but only one fifth of those appointed.
Writing in The Irish News today, Mr Bradley says it is "disappointing" that the nationalist community in the north has not embraced the reformed police service as enthusiastically as it could have.
He acknowledges that continued dissident republican activity may discourage potential PSNI applicants from the Catholic community. The former priest also criticises the Church, which despite giving its support to those who join the police, leaves them feeling "that the holy water is being sprinkled from a great and safe distance".
However, Mr Bradley's strongest criticism is reserved for Sinn Féin, who he claims put the burden of attracting Catholics into the PSNI on the force itself.
"I have seldom, if ever, heard Sinn Féin encourage their supporters to join the police," he says.
"They claim it is their role to hold the police to account. That is strictly true but it is akin to a father who never hugs his children on the grounds that it will make them soft."
He says a police service needs to be embraced by the community it serves "just as police officers need to love, warts and all, the community they serve".
"Otherwise, it becomes a stiff, formal and cold encounter," the former Policing Board vice-chairman says.
But Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said his party had signed up for a "representative, accountable, non-political and non-partisan" police force and it fully supported people joining the PSNI.
"We supported 50/50 recruitment which was specifically there to change the make-up of the police and bring in a critical mass of Catholics, nationalists and others to make the PSNI more representative of the community it serves," the North Belfast MLA said.
He said Sinn Féin’s believed the ending of 50/50 recruitment was a "mistake".
"We support the new beginning to police, support the PSNI but I will also criticise them if I believe they're doing wrong," Mr Kelly said.
"I'm the policing spokesperson for Sinn Féin and there is no ambiguity in this at all – no one should be marginalised because they choose a career in the PSNI."