Northern Ireland news

Catholic officers' guild not consulted ahead of recent PSNI recruitment drive

The Catholic Police Guild was formally established earlier this year and currently represents around 270 officers
Connla Young

A GUILD set up to represent Catholic PSNI officers has called for more robust action to attract members of that faith to the force .

Fresh concerns have been raised as the latest figures show that the number of Catholics applying to join the PSNI continue to fall.

The Catholic Police Guild was formally established earlier this year and currently represents around 270 officers.

A 'minority association', the establishment of the guild required the approval of the PSNI's leadership.

A member, who did not want to be identified, last night claimed the recent formation of the guild was met with "push back" from senior PSNI management.

The serving officer also claimed that objections were raised over aspects of a special guild prayer included in its constitution.

The religious make-up of the PSNI came back into sharp focus on the 20th anniversary of its establishment last month.

Figures released last week reveal that of the applicants to this year's PSNI recruitment campaign 66.5 per cent were Protestant while 30 per cent were Catholic, a slight drop on the 2020 recruitment drive figure of 30.76 per cent.

Of the 193 officers recruited in 2020, 75 per cent (144) were Protestant and 24 per cent (46) were Catholic.

The number of serving Catholic officers remains at around 32 per cent.

The guild member has claimed that PSNI staff failed to consult with the body ahead of its recent recruitment drive, although this is disputed by police.

"I would expect the organisation to have actions in place to ensure that what they say they are going to deliver upon are not just words," the guild member said.

"What are they actually doing to attract Catholic police officers?

"With ethnic minorities they have a picture of black officers but you can't do that with Catholics, they don't have a crucifix on their head."

The serving officer claimed there was resistance to the concept of a Catholic officers' guild.

"We had to jump through a number of hoops and there was push back," the officer insisted.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI last night said it "engaged with all of our minority support associations, including the Catholic guild, at the planning stage for our recent student officer recruitment campaign.

"We also engaged with our minority support associations with respect to our programme of outreach activities, with Catholic guild committee members attending and speaking at a number of our larger recruitment events," she said.

It is claimed that several questions were raised about the guild's draft constitution, which was adopted from the group's sister organisation in England and Wales.

The PSNI spokeswoman said that "the constitution of Catholic Police Guild went through the same appropriate governance groups as all other minority support associations before being approved and supported" by a police committee.

It is also suggested that during a meeting of senior officers "eleventh hour" objections were also raised about aspects of a Catholic prayer included in the guild's constitution, which members are encouraged to recite daily.

The calls for further change are said to have been rejected.

The PSNI spokeswoman said: "The Catholic Police Guild use a national prayer and we are not aware of any issues regarding the use of this."

With the number of Catholics applying to join the PSNI is dropping, official figures show that the overwhelming majority of senior officers are Protestant.

Of 78 officers the PSNI describes as 'senior', 58 (74.3 per cent) are Protestant, 16 (20.5 per cent) Catholic and four (5.1 per cent) undetermined.

A 'senior' officer includes the rank of superintendent up to chief constable.

The PSNI spokeswoman added that as "Catholic officers progress through their career in the police service we also fully expect this to be reflected within the senior leadership of the organisation".

The guild member believes more can be done by politicians to hold the PSNI to account.

"Who is policing the police, who is holding the senior command to account?," the officer asked.

"It's the Policing Board and politicians, what are they doing to hold the police to account?"

The officer added that it is "incumbent on the associated bodies to do their job".

The PSNI spokeswoman said that the force "is committed to being representative of the community we serve and there are now four times the number of Catholic police officers as a result of the change that has taken place since the service was established in 2001".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news