NI police quotas needed for 10 years - SDLP

Recruitment quotas aimed at increasing the number of Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland should operate for at least…

Recruitment quotas aimed at increasing the number of Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland should operate for at least 10 years.

Following Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley's call yesterday for the phasing out of 50/50 recruitment of Catholic and Protestant officers, the SDLP said the British government should stick to a suggestion that the quotas should operate for at least a decade.

West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood said: "The Patten report was right on 50/50 recruitment.

"It said that it should remain for `10 years at least'. This is essential to creating a representative police service.


"The SDLP will hold to this principle. There must be no backing away."

A commission on police reform chaired by former Conservative chairman Chris Patten proposed 50/50 recruitment as a way of addressing the religious imbalance within the RUC, the predecessor to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

When police reforms were implemented in 2001, the then Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan admitted it could take more than 10 years to make the police fully representative of the community.

Mr Bradley told the SDLP's annual conference in Belfast yesterday that the 50/50 quotas were incompatible with the long term development of a human rights culture in Northern Ireland.

"It should be got rid of as soon as possible," he told members.

"(Chris) Patten did get it right when he said let it go free floating when you get the numbers (of Catholic police officers) up to 30%.

"He didn't say that because it was a nice little thing to say but you cannot stand on human rights grounds and have that type of bias. You do it provisionally.

"So when unionist people say to those of us who claim to be nationalists we do not like the 50-50 situation, then all we can do is look at them in the eye and say neither do we."

Mr Bradley's comments were welcomed by the Alliance Party's justice spokesperson Stephen Farry.

But Mr Attwood said there should be no misunderstanding about what the Policing Board vice chairman was saying.

The SDLP Policing Board member insisted: "Denis Bradley's comments were absolutely consistent with Patten and with maintaining 50/50 recruitment for 10 years at least.

"Denis, and all with a progressive view on policing, know that 50/50 is part of the new policing architecture. It gives it strength.

"It is working well with approaching 20 per cent of the PSNI Catholic.

"Given the preference of the British government for the politics of concession, let them understand that the SDLP will concede nothing on this issue, nothing on Patten."