The PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, said only 10 percent of applicants for the positions came from the Catholic side of the community. Because, under rules to improve Catholic representation, no more than 50 percent of all new recruits can be Protestant, only 52 of 250 vacancies have so far been filled.
“We had 26 successful people from the Catholic community and around 250 non-Catholics,” Orde said. “That means I can only recruit 52 and it makes it harder. It’s going to take a lot longer than I had hoped because of 50:50.”
The Police Federation has called for the scrapping of the 50:50 rule, which it had always opposed, but the Police Board vice chairman, Denis Bradley, said the problem is only a short-term one and would disappear once Sinn Fein takes its seats on the board.
Sinn Fein has refused to take its positions on the Police Board, citing the failure of the British government to fully implement the Patten Report’s recommendations on a new police service.
On Nov. 25, the British government published a draft bill setting out proposed further changes in the North’s policing legislation, but it said changes are conditional on republicans and loyalists engaging in what it called “acts of completion.”
The draft legislation was published in two separate documents — with the clauses removing the disqualification of ex-prisoners from the local policing boards in a separate text.
The SDLP’s policing spokesperson, Alex Attwood, responding to the Police Federation, said it should consider the facts.
“In the first year of the PSNI training college, the target was to have 540 trainees,” he said. “This figure was in excess of what the Patten report recommended, with a target of around 400. Five hundred and thirty-four people passed through the training college — a difference of six. The facts are 50:50 recruitment is being fulfilled and is progressing in advance of the Patten targets.
“The real issue for some in the Police Federation is around 50:50 recruitment practice. In attempts by some to damage this principle and success of this practice the facts are ignored, and a dangerous hysteria created by the assertion that ‘in extreme circumstances recruitment could cease altogether.’ “
Attwood also raised the question of the police investigation into the murder of journalist Martin O’Hagan last year at a public session of the Policing Board.
“There is widespread speculation about the identity of the murder gang”, he said. “Yet to date no person has been charged. The chief constable was asked to give an update in relation to how far the police investigation had advanced. The chief constable is to come back to the Board with a response.”
Meanwhile, rioting erupted during a loyalist parade in Derry on Saturday despite earlier pleas for calm from the Apprentice Boys and from both Celtic and Rangers football clubs on the day of the Old Firm game in Glasgow.
The violence broke out shortly after 4 p.m. at the tail end of the Apprentice Boys’ annual march into the city center. Police officers in riot gear fought running battles with nationalist youths in the city center.
Bricks, bottles and stones were exchanged by nationalists and loyalists during the clashes. A police riot squad drove the nationalist youths back into Shipquay Street and made several arrests. A number of loyalists involved in the trouble were also arrested during the disturbances.