Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 16:06 UK

Quarter of police are Catholics

Paul Goggins
The figure was revealed by the security minister Paul Goggins

The proportion of Catholic officers in the PSNI is at an all time high of 26%.

The figure was revealed by the security minister Paul Goggins in a statement to the House of Commons.

The government has a target of 30% by 2011 at which point 50:50 recruitment will end.

Mr Goggins said progress had been made in other areas with female composition nearly doubling, from 12% in 2001 to 23.43% today, and 31 officers coming from an ethnic minority background.

He said the PSNI was "on course" to reach the 30% Catholic composition target by 2010/11, "as stated in the Patten Report".

"Since the introduction of the temporary 50:50 provisions in 2001, tremendous progress has been made towards a more representative police service and our ultimate goal of 30% Catholic composition," Mr Goggins said.

"At the time of the Patten Report the Catholic composition was just 8.3%, today it is 26.14%.

"In addition, female composition has nearly doubled, from 12% in 2001 to 23.43% today and there are currently 31 officers from an ethnic minority background including Pakistani, Black Caribbean, Chinese and Indian.

Senior ranks

"The St Andrews Agreement makes it clear that the temporary arrangements to the PSNI will lapse when the Government's target of 30% Catholic officers has been achieved. We are on course to reach this target by 2010/2011."

Sinn Fein Policing Board member Sinn Fein Daithí McKay said he was concerned by under representation of Catholics officers at senior ranks.

"Our objective must be to ensure that we have a policing service that is representative, accountable and effective," he said.

"Central to this is not just bringing the composition level up of Catholics, but also representation across all of the ranks.

"I am also concerned that we now have more officers based at PSNI headquarters than at the time the Patten report was written. This is clearly a backward step and must be addressed."

The DUP's Diane Dodds welcomed the rise in the recruitment of Catholics, but said it did not "justify the use of discriminatory 50:50 recruitment".

"There has been strong evidence over recent years that the 50:50 recruitment policy has had a detrimental effect on the willingness of young people from outside the Catholic community to go forward for positions within the police," she said.

"There must be strong encouragement given to all sections of our society to consider policing as a career and then the best candidates for the job selected from that pool on the basis of merit alone."

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