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BBC NI's security correspondent Brian Rowan reports:
"The first 260 applicants will begin training later this year"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Third of new police recruits Catholic
RUC officers
Training for the first recruits will begin later this year
More than a third of those who have applied to join the new Police Service of Northern Ireland are Catholics.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable gave the Police Authority a breakdown of the figures on Wednesday.

About 7,700 people have applied to join the new service, with 35% of applicants coming from the Catholic community and 40% being female.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan said he was encouraged by the figures.

"Naturally we are pleased about the response to the recruitment competition from all communities but it is particularly encouraging to see such a high level of interest from Catholic and female applicants."

The whole new approach to police recruitment seems to be reaping significant rewards

Pat Armstrong
NI Police Authority

The first 260 recruits will begin training later this year and it is hoped to have the new officers on the streets by spring 2002.

Meanwhile, the RUC is being reduced in number, with 1,250 set to go before the launch of the new policing service.

Police Authority chairman Pat Armstrong said the numbers of Catholics signing up to join was a "real step forward" in the creation of the new service.

"The whole new approach to police recruitment seems to be reaping significant rewards," he said.

"The community have shown their willingness to become involved in policing through the large numbers of applications received."

'Very pleased'

The figure of 35% was considerably up on the last RUC recruitment campaign in 1998, in which 22% of those who applied were Catholic.

The present force is about 92% Protestant.

Policing will be one of the main issues to be resolved in the political talks due to begin later this month.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said he was "very pleased" that 35% of applicants were Catholic.

Dr Reid was speaking in Dublin after talks with Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen to assess the implications of last week's general election results.

"It does look as though we have had a good response to the new policing service in Northern Ireland from the Catholic community.

"But what people want us to do, rather than rest on our laurels, is now to go forward and fulfil all the remaining aspects of the agreement.

"That is the way to make sure there is a secure future for Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein is demanding significant amendments to the Police Act, to make the new service more accountable, and for a ban on plastic bullets.

The nationalist SDLP is facing a huge decision on whether to sign up to the new arrangements and take its place on the new Police Board.

Unionists are calling for the retention of the RUC's name, badge and insignia.

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See also:

02 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
8,000 apply to join new NI police
20 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
NI police recruitment set to begin
06 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid confident of new NI police service
16 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Flanagan move to close policing 'gap'
26 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Huge response to police campaign
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