The chief constable said the attendance of deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at the launch of the PSNI recruitment campaign got it off to “the best possible start”.
Simon Byrne launched the campaign on Tuesday.
It comes amid continued concerns over the PSNI’s ability to increase numbers of Catholic officers.
Ms O’Neill is deputy leader of Sinn Féin – its support is seen as important in encouraging more Catholic recruits.
She was one of a number of politicians at the event – including First Minister Arlene Foster – as well as representatives of churches and sporting bodies, such as the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Mr Byrne said: “We don’t underestimate the significant step forward Sinn Féin has taken in endorsing this campaign merely by being here and beginning a conversation about how we can work differently to improve policing right across the country.
“I am very pleased.”
Sinn Féin has historically been critical of the role of the police in Northern Ireland, both the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which replaced it in 2001.
In 2007 the party gave its support to the PSNI, but its representatives have not attended passing out parades for new recruits.
‘Reflective of community’
In the lead-up to the new campaign, the first since October 2018, there has been debate about whether a return to 50-50 recruitment is required.
A a50-50 recruitment policy ran for the first 10 years of the PSNI until 2011.
This meant that 50% of all recruits had to be from a Catholic background, and 50% from a Protestant or other background.
The policy saw numbers of Catholic police officers rise from 8% to 32%, but things have stalled years after it ended.
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Former chief constable Sir George Hamilton warned last year that numbers were “going to start to dip if nothing changes”.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and senior Catholic clergymen favour its reintroduction, which would be a political decision, but unionists oppose it.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said her attendance at the recruitment campaign launch “speaks volumes”.
“We need a PSNI that is reflective in terms of the community in which it serves,” she said.
First Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the recruitment drive, describing it as “significant”.
“It is important because there’s been a lot of conversations about the fact we need to have a police service that reflects Northern Ireland’s society,” she said.
Applications are open for about three weeks, with the first part of the process handled by professional services firm Deloitte.
Later stages of selection, conducted by the PSNI, involve criminal background checks and physical tests.
The PSNI is also aiming to attract more women and people of ethnic backgrounds.
Michelle O’Neill attending the launch of the new recruitment drive felt like a big step.
One long-serving PSNI commander even wondered if it was the policing equivalent of the Queen visiting Dublin.
Sinn Féin endorsing Northern Ireland policing in 2007 was of course more notable.
So, arguably, was the late Martin McGuinness’s very strong condemnation of dissident murders of PSNI officers.
Mrs O’Neill stopped short of urging young Catholics to join in her comments to the media.
Cynics also point out there is an election in the Republic of Ireland.
But for a party that has not attended passing out parades for new recruits, this was a significant moment in the party’s relationship with the PSNI.
It is not the only challenge facing the PSNI, as it strives to better reflect the composition of Northern Ireland society.
Former Chief Constable George Hamilton issued a warning over 50-50 recruitment
It has 6,900 officers and publishes data on their backgrounds.
Sixty-seven percent are “perceived” as being Protestant, 32% Catholic and 1% are from an ethnic minority.
Seven in every 10 officers are male.
The PSNI is also conscious of needing to improve interest from working class Protestants and members of the LGBT community.
With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI and Julian O’Neill Home Affairs Correspondent for the original story
Spads are hand-picked individuals who advise ministers on how to stay in power, by making popular decisions
JIM Allister was half right. He correctly identified the need for legislation, to regulate the behaviour of Stormont’s special advisers (spads).
But he was wrong about his proposed new law. It needed just one sentence: “If ministers require advice on the political consequences of their policies and decisions, their party, and not the public, should pay for it.” (He might have called it the Abolition of Spade Act.) But our beloved Stormont agreed a new Code of Conduct for Spads, those lubricants of the wheels of government who apparently keep this wonderful semi-colony at its efficient best. So why do we need spads? (Answer: we don’t) What difference will the new Code of Conduct make? (Answer: none). How could Stormont work without them? (Answer: just as badly as now.)
, Mary Lou McDonald suggests that what is recorded in Burned about the SF Finance Minister’s behaviour was equivalent to the Irish Finance Minister taking advice from his special adviser.I think that’s misleading. (1/3)
The central issue is that Máirtín Ó Muilleoir hada special adviser. But here he was asking unseen republicans who were neither his spad nor experts on the complexities of energy policy if they were “content” for him to take an urgent decision. Here are3 pages from Burned: (2/3)
This episode was possible because of the ultra secrecy employed by the DUP & SF in Stormont – keeping things off-grid, using private email accounts & phones, & leaving these unseen figures wholly unaccountable because there was no official record of their role. What else went on?
Spads are hand-picked individuals who advice ministers on how to stay in power, by making popular decisions, or by disguising unpopular decisions as either not having happened or being someone’s else’s fault. They require no qualifications, which tends to render the debate on academic selection somewhat redundant. Politicians say spads have three functions. They act as a link between the minister and the party. In that case the party should pay. Secondly, spads are a link between ministers and civil servants. I have worked with enough ministers and senior civil servants to know that they can communicate perfectly well, without help from an intermediary. Thirdly, spads are ment to liaise with other spads. I have no idea why. (Maybe they have an addiction group called Spads Anonymous: “My name is Joe Bloggs and I am a spad. It all began when I started reading what I thought was harmless election literature, but before I knew it, I was hooked on party policy and look at me now – effectively in charge of a government department.)
Ah but, say the five main parties, this new code of conduct is different. It is indeed and it would be hard to find a more cynical public relations ploy, even by Stormont’s standards. Spads’ top salaries are to be reduced to a mere £85,000 (hurrah for equality) and they will be expected to keep minutes of meetings (how very considerate). More puzzling is that they “should avoid anything” which might suggest that “people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes” – even though it also says they are expected to provide “politically committed”. (That’s the great thing about this code: it raises Stormont to new levels of inconsistency.)
And try understanding this: Spads can take part in “all forms of local political activity, but not local activities in support of national politics.” No, I am not making it up and since all five parties claim there are two nations here, which nation’s national politics do they mean? Oh, and what about regional or international politics? And how local is local: townland, parish, electoral ward, electoral district, travel to work area, county, local government area, Six Counties? (Maybe this code should have been looked at by a spad before being published?) As an alternative to spads, who cost £2 million annually, if any party requires advice on the likely electoral consequences of any executive decision, this column will gladly provide it free of charge. And if they do not wish to avail of that offer, all they to do is ask anyone in the street, because we can all easily predict the likely electoral impact of ministerial decisions in our sectarian society. So it is time for a Spadless Stormont. When it was announced on Tuesday that MLAs would get an extra £1,000 annually, no one from the five main parties would come out of Stormont for a BBC interview. The next day, they depicted themselves as victims of someone forcing them to take money (even though they took money for three years for not working). If they can manage those decisions without spads, they can manage every other decision in the same way.
A CATHOLIC priest claimed he could be shot by the Provos – for campaigning for the early release of IRA prisoners.
Father Denis Faul of St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, Co Tyrone made consistent appeals to Minister of State Nicholas Scott to let republican terrorists out of jail.
His pleas have been revealed in top secret files which have now been declassified by the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, including when Fr Faul had a meeting with Mr Scott on May 16, 1986, bringing with him Fr Murray and Mr Canning, an independent nationalist councillor from Dungannon.
The note for the record said: “Father Faul set out at length his proposition that mass releases from the prisons now would end violence.
“He acknowledged that letting out the killers to stop the killing was a difficult concept to grasp, but claimed support from Irish history as well as the facts of the present.”
It continued: “Many of those in prison today had only become involved in paramilitary activity because of injustice done to the Catholic community – he spoke of internment, torture, plastic bullets and the hunger strike.
“Still, their families regretted their involvement, and if the prisoners were released to them there was no doubt that their influence would be deployed to restrain them from further dealings with the paramilitaries.
“…The commitment to the paramilitaries of many prisoners was, in any event, only ostensible. Families had told him that prisoners were now more often thinking for themselves, they felt the war was over.
“In prison, they moved to Provisional wings because they had less hassle from warders there than in mixed wings.
“…Father Faul spoke with real loathing of PIRA, which had cynically manipulated many young people. He knew of prisoners who had effectively delivered into the hands of the police whilst working for PIRA, because it had suited the organisation’s purposes.
“It was to PIRA’s advantage to have the prisons full. They were violently opposed to the release campaign: indeed Father Faul said he could be shot by them for his activities.”
The document is contained in a Northern Ireland Office file on Prisons from 1983 to 1989, regarding Reforms and Restoration of Lost Remission (after the Hunger Strike 03/10/81).
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and David O’Dornan for the original story
In three key seats, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance are hoping the Remain vote will help them remove senior DUP figures from their seats
As the North of Ireland heads to the polls on Thursday, the DUP are in a curious position.
In 2017, they propped up the Conservative government, proclaiming the great influence their 10 MPs would have at Westminster, and how they could shape the course of their desired Brexit – despite 56 per cent of people in Northern Ireland voting to Remain. After rejecting Theresa May’s deal (too soft), then Boris Johnson’s deal (hard, but with an unacceptable Irish Sea border), they returned to Belfast, with their tails between their legs.
In this election, again they’re asking voters to give them a mandate to go and influence the Westminster government – without so much as a hint of irony. The truth is they won’t be hugely punished.
Politics in the North of Ireland remains deeply tribal, and many unionists will still back their biggest party for fear of splitting the vote and handing a victory to what they see as the other side. The DUP are also attempting to distance themselves from Boris Johnson’s “betrayal” over the unpopular Brexit deal.
So while Sinn Fein will take a fistful of seats along the border, the DUP will still romp home in many of its safe constituencies.
But in some seats, Remainers are giving them a run for their money. As many as 60 per cent of voters in Belfast wanted to remain in the EU, yet aside from Sinn Fein in West Belfast, the other three seats in the city are held by the DUP. This week, the pro-Remain parties of Northern Ireland hope to change that.
For 20 years, North Belfast has been the seat of Nigel Dodds, DUP grandee and their leader at Westminster. He is being challenged here by Sinn Fein’s John Finucane – the current Lord Mayor of Belfast and the son of solicitor Pat, who was murdered by loyalist gunmen in his family home in 1989.
“I grew up in North Belfast and it was pretty much as safe a unionist seat as you could get,” he tells The Independent. “But I think that’s different now because society has moved on, and there’s a regressive brand of politics that they want to leave behind. People want to remove those very loud Brexiteer voices who are not representative.”
Mr Dodds has a majority of 2,081, but with the SDLP and Greens not running against Sinn Fein, this seat is in a virtual dead heat. Mr Finucane is working hard to win over people who wouldn’t normally vote for his party. As Irish republicans, Sinn Fein abstain from taking their seats in the House of Commons (seven at the last election), but he believes this position has never been easier to justify, given the chaos that has played out at Westminster.
“The Brexit project is very much an English nationalist project, and they’re entitled to have that,” he explains. “There is a momentum that will be forcing this through no matter how much damage it will cause here in Belfast or across Northern Ireland.
“For those who backed Remain, or have come around to backing Remain since 2016, protection for them has come from Dublin, Brussels, Washington DC, and protection is never going to come from the green benches of Westminster.”
Mr Finucane describes Mr Dodds as the “arch-Brexiteer” of The North of Ireland, having been part of the Vote Leave campaign. “People see this as a real opportunity to send a powerful message beyond Belfast that we rejected, and continue to reject, Brexit.”
In South Belfast, the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly (with a majority of 1,996) is under threat from a nationalist who would take up her seat in Westminster. The SDLP’s Claire Hanna says people are feeling “disenfranchised and unheard” in the Brexit debate, and she wants to change that.
“There are some crazy things being said in Westminster about Ireland and Brexit, and there’s nobody there to correct them,” she says. “There are many people who may have voted Sinn Fein in the past, but who now see a situation where we have votes coming down to a handful of MPs, and that protecting Ireland’s interests should come ahead of party ideology.”
Indeed both Sinn Fein and the Greens have stood aside in this seat to aide Ms Hanna’s fight against the DUP, who she says have left the North of Ireland in an “unequivocally worse position” than when they entered the confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives in 2017.
“They had an incredible amount of power and influence, and they had the opportunity to use it to positive effect for people in the North of Ireland and they chose not to.”
The DUP have dug themselves into a Brexit-shaped hole, first by backing it in spite of the ever-increasing Remain consensus in the North of Ireland, then by rejecting Theresa May’s deal in favour of a harder one, then by rejecting Boris Johnson’s harder deal once they saw it would be damaging to the union.
“They have yet to articulate a form of Brexit that matches both their red lines and the red lines of the people who live here and don’t want a hard border,” says Ms Hanna. “Perhaps it’s dawning on them that you can have a hard Brexit or you can have the union but you can’t have both.”
Arguably the SDLP’s strongest asset, Ms Hanna – a Stormont MLA who has even been endorsed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – looks poised to take this seat and ensure her party’s return to Westminster. Nevertheless, she is well aware that the North of Ireland MPs cannot reroute Brexit alone.
“We’ve got to roll with the punches in terms of what is on the table after the election,” she admits. “If there happens to be a majority of parties other than the Conservatives, then a People’s Vote is our preferred next step.”
But it’s not just nationalists like Sinn Fein and the SDLP who are lining up to take on the DUP – this extends to all the pro-Remain parties, including the Alliance Party. Neither nationalist nor unionist, Alliance is a centre-ground party, increasingly representative of the other constituency in the North of Ireland, who are not committed either way on the constitutional question.
The slow but steady growth of Alliance was evident in local council elections earlier this year, as well as the election of party leader Naomi Long as one of the region’s three MEPs. She is taking on the DUP’s Gavin Robinson in East Belfast (with a majority of 8,474), a seat which she previously held from 2010 to 2015, because she says the unionist party is pursuing an agenda which is not supported in the constituency.
“What we’ve had from the DUP is a very extreme Brexit stance,” says Ms Long, pointing out that the party has lurched to the right as the process has gone on. “Even some of those in East Belfast who would have voted Leave feel they’re not being listened to at Westminster.”
While nationalists and “Others” in the North of Ireland have largely backed Remain, a Lucid Talk poll released in recent days showed that only 38 per cent of unionists now back Leave, with 41 per cent in favour of Remain. Support for Boris Johnson’s deal is in single digits across all communities. And it seems the DUP have already got the message. Brexit doesn’t feature at all in the party’s election broadcast, campaign literature, or their official website. Ms Long says this “speaks volumes about how wrong they have got this, and how little they want to be held to account for their decision.”
Alliance must draw cross-party support to take East Belfast, but the party is not in favour of pacts. So while Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Greens have stood aside to give Ms Long a clear run here, Alliance have not exactly returned the favour. In fact, they are the only party running in all 18 of Northern Ireland’s constituencies – and with a 50-50 gender quota at that.
“We are standing to be MPs for five years, and our manifesto is broader than just Brexit,” says Ms Long. “So I think it’s important that we stand and give people that choice.”
Like the SDLP, Alliance are in favour of a second referendum – with Remain on the ballot. While this stance has been criticised as one which ignores the wishes of Leave voters, Ms Long argues that’s not the case.
“I’ve never patronised people who voted Leave,” she says, “but what they were promised in 2016 was a kind of unicorn Brexit which would be all things to all people, and what we’re now getting is a lame donkey Brexit under Boris Johnson, and I think given that choice, some people may decide that they would prefer to keep things as they are.
“They should have the opportunity to change their mind just as the prime minister himself has done on numerous occasions on this issue.”
As election day approaches, it seems likely that the SDLP will take South Belfast, although it will be a harder fight for Alliance in East Belfast. But if there’s only one Northern Ireland seat to keep your eye on, it’s Dodds v Finucane in North Belfast. A win for Sinn Fein here would be a major victory, and its loss would be devastating for the DUP.
As with so many seats across the UK, the success of pro-Remain candidates in Northern Ireland will lie entirely in people’s willingness to vote tactically; to send a message to the DUP, and elect more voices who will reflect the pro-EU majority.
With many thanks to: The Independent and Ben Kelly for the original story@BenKellyTweets
The banner, in Belfast’s Tiger’s Bay area, contained allegations about the Sinn Féin North Belfast election candidate and his family.
Mr Dodds said the DUP had nothing to do with the banner.
He said the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had been “crystal clear” on the use of violence and the activity of those who take part in “vile internet trolling” of victims and some unionist politicians.
However, he also challenged Sinn Féin not to be selective, calling on republicans to “stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA” including the gunman who shot a police officer guarding him when he was visiting his seriously ill son in hospital in 1996.
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aitken said the banners “need to come down, no two ways about it”.
Belfast City Council workers were flanked by police as they removed the banner on Monday.
Supt Melanie Jones said police were in attendance “to ensure the safety of persons removing a banner from council property”.
“Enquiries are under way to establish if these banners constitute any criminal offence or offences, including a hate incident or hate crime,” added Supt Jones.
‘Hatred and division’
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there had been an “appalling and dangerous” campaign of “harassment, intimidation and threats against John Finucane and his family”.
He is a candidate in next month’s Westminster election in the North Belfast constituency, which is also being contested by outgoing DUP MP Mr Dodds and Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party.
Mr Finucane’s father, Pat, was a solicitor who was shot dead by loyalists at his home in north Belfast in 1989.
The PSNI said it had also received reports about banners erected in south Belfast, adding enquiries were being made.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said banners targeted at candidate Claire Hanna had appeared in south Belfast.
“The banners that have been erected in Belfast targeting John Finucane and Claire Hanna seeking to sow hatred and division are disgusting,” said Mr Eastwood.
“Those responsible are cynically using, abusing and retraumatising victims for narrow political purposes.”
With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story