Northern Ireland news

Police Federation says 50:50 recruitment won't solve societal barriers

Police Federation of Northern Ireland chairman Mark Lindsay

THE head of the Police Federation has said 50:50 recruitment won't solve the societal barriers that continue to deter nationalists from joining the PSNI.

Mark Lindsay's comments came as Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly revealed they are under threat from dissident republicans after they attended a PSNI recruitment event in Belfast.

Catholics still make up only around a third of the PSNI, with Archbishop Eamon Martin recently calling for a return of 50:50 recruitment to ensure policing is more representative.

However, Mr Lindsay said there needs to be "more vocal support within those communities".

He also said while it was important Sinn Féin turned up at the recruitment event, support needed to be more consistent.

"Other people can read into that what they think the motivation was, but it is important society sees that all political parties support policing," he said.

"They would all indicate that they do by their presence on the Policing Board, but I do not think it is consistent enough.

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"And that sends very mixed messages, particularly to nationalist communities."

Mr Lindsay claimed ongoing IRA commemorations attended by Sinn Féin members are not helping change societal perceptions of policing.

"Saying join the PSNI, it's a good career, but then eulogising the murderers of police officers, whether it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago or 100 years ago, feeds into the rhetoric of the more extreme dissident groupings."

He said while there has been political condemnation of attacks on family members of police officers in nationalist areas, it "needed to be stronger".

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"We don't feel 50/50 is the way to address this, we think it is a wider social issue and that's our main objection to it," he said.

"We think recruitment should be on the basis of your ability, but we should be creating an environment that allows and makes people want to join without fear of their families being attacked.

"I have friends who joined the police in the eighties who were from nationalist/republican areas and who have loved their careers and found nothing but support within policing, but there was always that issue which hasn't gone away of not being able to go back home and see your mummy on a Sunday for your dinner.

"And that is what we can't fix on our own."

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