DUP's Gregory Campbell says 'more than just lip service' needed from nationalists on policing
A DUP MP has urged nationalist politicians to give "more than just lip service" to policing after the chief constable said greater work is needed to encourage Catholics to join the PSNI.
Chief constable George Hamilton told MPs there is a "real need for wider nationalism to take yet another step in terms of policing".
He said there needs to be a move from people saying they "support" the police towards actively encouraging and advocating a career in policing.
The DUP's Gregory Campbell said there was a "clear challenge here for nationalism", but the SDLP dismissed the MP's criticism as "nonsense".
Speaking at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Mr Hamilton said the PSNI has seen "only marginal improvements in terms of representativeness".
He said that while around a third of job applications are from the Catholic community, they only make up about a fifth of those appointed due to people dropping out before the process concludes.
Mr Hamilton also said there was a need to increase representation of "people west of the Bann", younger people and women.
"There is a real need for wider nationalism to take yet another step in terms of policing," he told MPs.
He accepted that nationalist parties and the Catholic Church are supportive of the PSNI, but he said: "We are still it feels like a couple of clicks away from people actually advocating for a career in policing."
He added: "We need therefore politicans, civic leaders, church leaders, to advocate for a career in policing, to encourage young people, not so young people, to step forward and serve their community through a career in policing.
"And not just to do it, but to be proud of the fact that people are doing it as public servants."
East Derry MP Mr Campbell, who sits on the committee, said: "The chief constable's message was quite clear, that nationalist representatives need to move beyond a simple statement that they support policing to becoming advocates for people from the Catholic community to choose policing as a career."
He added: "What is required is more than just lip service being paid to policing by political nationalism."
SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly, the party's policing spokesperson, described Mr Campbell's remarks as "nonsense comments" and said her party's "consistent support for policing and justice are a matter of public record".
"Gregory Campbell's attention would be better served investigating why so many trainee PSNI officers from Catholic backgrounds drop out of the recruitment process before completing their training," she said.
"A delegation of SDLP representatives will be meeting the chief constable in the coming weeks and this will certainly be an item on our agenda."
Sinn Féin did not respond to requests for a comment.