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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
Police recruitment 'will be 50:50'
RUC officer
New police service is embroiled in political controversy
Northern Ireland's police chief has said the target of 50:50 recruitment of Catholics and Protestants to the province's new police service is being achieved.

Following the first application process for trainees to the service, since legislation was passed introducing widespread changes to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it is expected more than 300 people could be offered jobs.

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan announced on Wednesday that more than a quarter of those who have qualified to join the new Police Service of Northern Ireland are from the Catholic community.

Sir Ronnie told the Northern Ireland Police Authority leaders that the first batch of trainees to join the service would be drawn equally from the Protestant and Catholic communities.

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "We could employ 308 new recruits"
Recruitment to the new police service has been heavily politicised by the dispute over the policing issue between the province's main political parties.

Only the nationalist SDLP has agreed to fully accept the programme of policing reform and the government's plan to implement it.

Sinn Fein has rejected the plan, while the Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party have withheld their support so far.

'We reached our target'

Of the almost 8,000 people who applied to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland, just over 550 have emerged as qualified candidates.

New recruits
8000 applications
550 applicants qualified
154 Catholics qualified
Target of 50:50 recruitment of 260 met
300 may be given jobs
Twenty eight percent - a total of 154 - are from the Catholic community.

The plan had been for 260 trainees to join the police service - 130 from each community, but it now seems likely that more than 300 could be offered jobs because of the number of Catholics who have reached the qualified pool.

Sir Ronnie said: "We have enough successful applicants to recruit 308. Now I need to speak to my training people to see what the maximum number they can cope with in this financial year, is.

"But I am happy we have reached our target in that regard."

The first recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will begin their training in the period between 14 October and 4 November.

They will be on the streets of the province by Spring 2002.

The chief constable will then begin to look at phasing out the full-time Police Reserve, which has been one of the most controversial parts of the reform programme to unionists.

The focus will now switch to forming the new Policing Board.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid is expected to ask the political parties to make their nominations over the next few days.

The board has places for ten politicians and nine non-elected members and will replace the Police Authority.

In an attempt to gain support for the shape of policing reform, Dr Reid published his revised implementation plan for the policing legislation last month.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's security correspondent Brian Rowan reports:
"The chief constable announced the target of Catholic and Protestant recruitment was achieved"
Read BBC News Online's full special report on policing reform in Northern Ireland

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12 Sep 01 | N Ireland
28 Aug 01 | N Ireland
18 Aug 01 | N Ireland
20 Aug 01 | N Ireland
06 Mar 01 | N Ireland
13 Jun 01 | N Ireland
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