Police chief: GAA and SF fail to encourage PSNI careers

George Hamilton was giving evidence to the Commons NI committee
George Hamilton was giving evidence to the Commons NI committee

Chief Constable George Hamilton has said the GAA and Sinn Fein are failing to encourage nationalists to join the PSNI.

Speaking to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster recently, Mr Hamilton said the proportion of Catholic officers had stalled at around 30% since 50:50 recruitment ended in 2011.

Although there has been “huge progress”, the PSNI hopes political parties and civic groups will now “step up to the plate and advocate for a career in policing”, he said.

The PSNI does not question the bona fides of the GAA in respect of support for policing reforms, accountability and crime reporting, he said.

But he added: “Sometimes it feels there is a reluctance and stopping short of actively advocating for a career in policing. Until we get that, it is going to be hard to be truly representative.”

Ulster GAA responded that it cannot dictate to members what career paths to choose but that it works very closely with its youth and the PSNI.

PSNI recruitment adverts have been carried in the programme for the Mageean Cup final (an Ulster schools competition) last month as well as match day publications from county games right up to the All Ireland finals, it said.

Since the formation of the PSNI in 2001 the GAA has also worked closely with it to implement community outreach programmes, road safety campaigns, child safeguarding procedures, health initiatives as well as running open football and hurling tournaments for all, Ulster GAA said.

In recent weeks an International Police GAA tournament took place in Belfast, in which PSNI officers who are also GAA members took part.

In the programme for the event, the vice chair of the PSNI GAA said: “This competition brings out the greatness of the GAA as an organisation and demonstrates the strong bond and camaraderie within the police family.”

Mr Hamilton also said it is critical for Sinn Fein to provide leadership.

“Sinn Fein needs to take a position of not stopping to wait until everything is perfect and there are no complaints about policing ever before it can advocate for a career in policing, because it is a human endeavour,” he said.

Mistakes are going to be made but there are accountability mechanisms in place to deal with them, he added.

On The View last week Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly rejected claims his party was not doing enough. He said that he had offered people considering joining the PSNI “encouragement” and “any help they need”.

“I don’t know where the ambiguity is,” he said. “They are Irish people in an Irish police service.”