Senator Joe O’ Reilly Cavan-Monaghan- Irish Times covers Oireachtas Committee on Good Friday Agreement

Catholics make up third of North’s police service

CATHOLIC REPRESENTATION in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) now stands at almost 30 per cent, while 25 per cent of officers are women, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The North’s Minister for Justice David Ford told the committee on implementation of the Belfast Agreement that 29.3 per cent of officers were from what he described as a “perceived Catholic background”.

Mr Ford, who is leader of the Alliance Party, said the figure was approximately 8 per cent at the time of the publication of the Patten report on policing reform in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s.

“Recently, roughly 37 per cent of the pool of applicants have been of a perceived Catholic background,” he added.

Commenting on British government proposals to end the 50/50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants in the PSNI, Mr Ford said he would be content for the policy to conclude.It was also confirmed that 25 per cent of PSNI members were women.

Mr Ford highlighted as a “problem” the relatively small number of officers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“A fixation solely with religious background has meant issues like gender and ethnic background are not half as well advanced as they might have been,” he said. Mr Ford was responding to questions from Fine Gael Senator Joe O’Reilly, who is a member of the committee.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told the committee the Garda Síochána and the PSNI were operating “hand in glove” against dissident republican activity.

“An attack on the PSNI is an attack on the Garda Síochána,” Mr Ahern said. A significant number of dissidents had been jailed, he said, with over 50 arrested this year and 22 before the courts. “Some significant players have been taken out of their efforts,” he said.

“Both David and I are absolutely committed to ensuring resources are available to the PSNI and the Garda Síochána in that respect.” Mr Ahern said he was delighted to inform the committee a Garda superintendent was on a three-year secondment working with the PSNI.

He said he looked forward to the days when a senior member of the PSNI would “mirror what has happened”.

Tributes were paid to PSNI constable Peadar Heffron, who was injured by a bomb that exploded close to the MI5 base in Holywood, Co Down, in April.

Mr Ford said Constable Heffron, an Irish language specialist within the PSNI and the captain of the police Gaelic football team, was a constituent of his, who “symbolised everything which some people are opposed to”.

© 2010 The Irish Times

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website