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The BBC's Denis Murray
"A clear acknowledgement there are too few Catholics in the RUC"
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Author and journalist Eamonn Mallie
"The RUC... police service was identified with the unionist-dominated regime"
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Friday, 23 February, 2001, 17:36 GMT
Recruits sought for NI police service
RUC officers on the streets on the eve of a recruitment campaign
RUC officers patrolling on the eve of the campaign
A recruitment campaign is under way for the new Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The service will replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary, under the provisions of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

It is expected that officers will be recruited on a 50/50 Catholic/Protestant basis. The RUC is currently more than 90% Protestant.

The theme of the advertising campaign is "Working towards a true reflection of the whole community", but it comes against a backdrop of political controversy.
The first advert for the new police service
Reflections: The first advert for the new police service

Sinn Fein has urged nationalists not to apply to the service and has claimed the recruitment, coming ahead of resolution of the policing issue, is illegal.

The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party is also holding back its endorsement of the new service, hoping to gain promises of further police reforms from the government.

However, RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has described Sinn Fein's claim as "absolute nonsense".

He said he had accepted political backing for the new service was unlikely to come from the SDLP and Sinn Fein, before the approaching local and parliamentary elections.

Sir Ronnie said he had decided he could not wait any longer to start recruiting.

"I would have dearly loved to be launching this campaign in the face of full endorsement, full support, full encouragement from all sections of our community," he said.
Sir Ronnie Flanagan dismissed Sinn Fein claims
Sir Ronnie Flanagan dismissed Sinn Fein claims

"That at the moment isn't forthcoming. I'm confident in time it will be, but I need numbers of people on the streets, therefore I cannot wait any longer."

He added: "I'm doing all of this absolutely in line with the Patten recommendations. "

Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly dismissed Sir Ronnie's comments and said his party would not accept anything short of the recommendations of the Patten report on policing.

Mr Kelly added: "The chief constable already has 13,000 people. In a normal situation he would have 6,000, so the rush for recruitment is a falsehood."
Gerry Kelly:
Gerry Kelly: "Numbers need is falsehood"

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishop of Derry has said the church still cannot recommend young people join the new service.

However, Bishop Seamus Hegarty said anyone's decision to join the force must be respected.

Earlier, Democratic Unionist justice spokesman, Ian Paisley junior, said he blamed the pro-agreement Ulster Unionist Party for the "emasculation of the RUC".

But he said that while his party would never discourage anyone to join the police, he believed the reduced numbers in the new force would leave them unable to cope with crime levels.

Up to 500 RUC officers are to leave by the end of next month and another 750 are due to go before the first recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland finish their training, in spring next year.

Reduced force

The recruitment process is expected to leave the force with about 7,500 officers.

SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood said his party would be more "convinced by a new beginning to policing than a new advertising campaign".

"If we achieve that over the next number of days there will be a much better response to the ads," he said.
Sir Reg Empey:
Sir Reg Empey: "Nationalists must take the plunge"

However, Ulster Unionist enterprise minister Sir Reg Empey said: "You can't have a new beginning unless you set about building that new beginning yourself.

"There is a great deal of anger in the party and in the unionist community in general about the failure of the SDLP to get their feet wet and give a lead in this."

Meanwhile, the Dublin-based Irish Times newspaper has said nationalists should endorse the new service.

It follows a similar stance taken by the Belfast-based nationalist Irish News newspaper previously.

The first television advertisements for the new service will be screened on Friday night on both sides of the border. They will also appear in newspapers, bus shelters and a recruitment website.

When they go into the college, the new recruits will be given a starting salary of 17,133, which, on successful completion of training, will rise to 19,170.

The new officers will wear a uniform different to that of the RUC and bearing different emblems. As yet neither has been decided on.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Policing: An emotive issue
21 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Government defends police recruitment
20 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
NI police recruitment set to begin
16 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Flanagan move to close policing 'gap'
20 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Body urges Police Bill rethink
14 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Gaps remain in policing, says SDLP
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