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Just 11 per cent of Ministry of Defence staff in north are Catholics - The Irish News
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Just 11 per cent of Ministry of Defence staff in north are Catholics

Just 8 per cent of the Security Guard Service, which guards military barracks in Northern Ireland, are Catholics. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
John Monaghan

JUST 11 per cent of staff at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Northern Ireland are Catholics, with an even lower percentage making up the service that protects military barracks and MoD buildings.

In response to a Freedom of Information request seen by The Irish News, the MoD confirmed that just one in ten of its civilian staff in the north are Catholics.

Figures show that of 1,271 civilian employees 11 per cent of them are recorded as being Catholic, although a spokesman said that giving information on religious affiliation is voluntary.

Asked by The Irish News if recruiting Catholic staff is a priority, the MoD replied: "MoD is an award winning equal opportunities employer. No distinctions are made on religious, ethnic nor sexual grounds."

The percentage of Catholics is even lower in the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service (SGS), which is operated by the MoD.

Set up under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the SGS is a civilian force which, unlike in Britain, guards military barracks armed with pistols and dressed in blue uniforms rather than military combats.

Just eight per cent of SGS guards are Catholics, out of a total of 380 .

The figure is considerably lower than other public bodies, with the number of Catholic PSNI officers rising to about 30 per cent since the mandatory 50-50 recruitment was ended in 2011.

Prior to the reforms, only around eight per cent of RUC officers came from the Catholic community.

The percentages for the MoD and police are in marked contrast to the rise in Catholic recruitment in the civil service, where a 2012 report stated that 47 per cent of staff were Catholics.

In March 2009, the SGS was heavily criticised when its guards failed to return fire on dissident republicans who killed Sapper Patrick Azimkar (21) and Sapper Mark Quinsey (23) at Massereene Barracks in Co Antrim.

Following the murders, former Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who served nine tours of duty in the north, said it was time to consider the future of the service.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "It is very hard to understand why barracks in England, Scotland and Wales are protected by armed police officers or armed soldiers and airmen and yet in Northern Ireland we have a civilian service who, when it came to the test, didn't match up to what was required."

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