A DUP MP has branded 50-50 PSNI recruitment “institutionalised sectarianism” following calls for the policy to be re-instated to address nationalist confidence in policing.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell was speaking after calls from both the SDLP and Sinn Fein for a return to the controversial policy introduced for a period of 10 years as part of the Patten policing reforms.
Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein want the policy to be re-instated, citing a lack of nationalist confidence in policing.
Dolores Kelly, an SDLP policing board member, raised the PSNI’s failure to disclose information to the police ombudsman’s office on BBC Radio Ulster yesterday afternoon as she called for a return to 50/50 recruitment.
Eerlier this month it emerged the PSNI had failed to disclose information about a mass shooting carried out by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters at a bookmakers in south Belfast 27 years ago.
Five people were killed in the attack at a Sean Graham bookies shop on the lower Ormeau Road on February 5, 1992.
Ombudsman Michael Maguire’s office found that “significant, sensitive information” had not been made available by the PSNI.
A special meeting of the Policing Board has been called in the wake of the controversy and it will meet on Tuesday to discuss an urgent report on the issue from Chief Constable George Hamilton.
Speaking on Radio Ulster’s TalkBack programme yesterday afternoon, Mrs Kelly said: “I would say nationalist confidence in day-to-day policing is high.
“But the experience of those in the past and the recent revelations around the failure to disclose — or the mistakes in disclosure — to the police ombudsman continues to poison the atmosphere and, indeed, impact on confidence across the nationalist community in policing in general.”
She continued: “Our party always believed it (50/50 recruitment) was ended prematurely and we warned the British government of the consequences of that.”
She suggested that the promotion of Catholic “role models” to high-ranking positions within the PSNI could also encourage more Catholics to join.
But the DUP MP Gregory Campbell hit out at what he described as “sadly predictable knee-jerk calls for the return of sectarian discrimination”.
He added: “Dolores Kelly bemoans the lack of ‘big role models’ within the PSNI but does little to advance such an outcome except fall back on a call for the return of institutionalised sectarianism.”