50:50 recruitment to police

In a debate in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords on 20 March 2007 Lord Trimble said,

“Part of the reason that was adduced to explain these measures was that of the need to give Catholic applicants a helping hand as it was feared that there would be insufficient numbers coming forward as a result of republican hostility to policing. But we are in a different situation now in that respect. Republicans are clearly moving towards supporting policing even if they have not gone the whole way. We have heard statements by the leadership of the republican movement calling on members of the Catholic nationalist and republican community to join the police. The Minister might find that he will become the victim of the law of unintended consequences. Nationalists and republicans have now moved to support policing—nationalists in the shape of the SDLP have clearly done that; Sinn Fein is clearly moving in that direction—and they are encouraging young nationalists and young republicans to join the police. Given that situation, is it not likely that we will now see a significant number of young republicans, who up until now have held back from involving themselves in policing, becoming involved in it and that there will be a surge in recruits, or applications to the police, from that quarter? If that is the case—and there is good reason to expect that it will be the case within a short period if it is not now—the order that the Minister is bringing forward tonight will start to disadvantage Catholic applicants. Young republicans and young nationalists might have held back in the past because the republican movement was hostile to policing. As was mentioned, at the moment we are still getting more applications to the police from people of a Protestant background than from people of a Catholic background. It is quite possible that within a matter of months or a year or so that will switch and we shall find more Catholic than Protestant applicants coming forward. The Minister should bear in mind that as regards the relevant age group—young men aged 18 to 25—there is a rough equality in numbers in terms of the demographics, so what I have described is quite likely to occur. So we could see a situation where more applications are coming forward from a Catholic background but this legislation limits recruitment to 50 per cent. You will find it working against Catholic applicants. I understand that the Minister said that he can calculate that with the recruitment that is taking place, the 30 per cent target will be achieved by 2011 without the order. It is perfectly possible that that target could be achieved earlier than 2011. I do not know whether anyone has bothered to think this out."

(20 March 2007)

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