Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD has attacked a decision by the British Secretary to scrap the 50-50 recruitment procedure to the PSNI police, under which equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants were employed by the force.
The procedure was introduced as part of the Patten reforms arising from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Although intended to balance the force’s traditionally overwhelmingly Protestant and unionist ethos, Catholics on the PSNI remain outnumbered by Protestants by a factor of two or three.
The news that equal recruitment has been abandoned was strongly welcomed by unionists.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described it as “a grievous retrograde step”.
Speaking during Taoiseach’s Questions in the Dublin parliament, Mr Adams asked the Taoiseach if the British government had consulted with it on this. The Taoiseach appeared to admit it had not.
Mr Adams also raised his concerns about important aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements that have not been implemented. Among the undelivered items he referred to was the north-south Parliamentary Forum; an independent Consultative Forum; a Bill of Rights; and an Irish Language Act (Acht na Gaeilge).
Speaking afterwards, Mr Adams said: “This British Secretary of State is conceding to another unionist demand and damaging the great efforts made in recent years to build a policing service that has the support and confidence of the nationalist community.
“I have urged the Taoiseach to urgently contact the British Prime Minister and inform him in the strongest possible terms that 50-50 recruitment must not end.
“Moroever, it is also a matter of the utmost importance that the Taoiseach meet the British Prime Minister and agree a timetabled, programme of work that can resolve all these outstanding issues.”
Dublin’s new minister for foreign affairs, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, said he would have preferred if more than 40 per cent of the PSNI were Catholic, but made no direct criticism of the move.
Meanwhile, eirigi has again sought to expose what it describes as a “relentless campaign of PSNI harassment” against republicans in Newry.
It said that on Friday night, March 18, a republican activist was walking in the centre of Newry when he was surrounded by the PSNI in three cars and an armoured landrover, before being detained and questioned under section 24 of the British government’s ‘Justice and Security Act’.
The activist in question has been stopped and searched roughly sixteen times since January, and variously assaulted, arrested and threatened. On one occasion, the PSNI unsuccessfully attempted to recruit him as an informer.
eirigi’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney has said he and two friends suffered a similar ordeal the following night.
“I was threatened with arrest after I gave my details, they claimed they weren’t the right details despite the fact that I have been stopped on numerous occasions. We were then searched for ‘ammunition, transmitters and wireless apparatus’,” said Mr Murney.
“My two friends were each given a blue search record slip, but I was handed a small card and told to present myself to the barracks. One of my friends asked why was I getting one of those and not a blue slip the officer replied, “because he’s special.” I believe they are issuing these generic cards in an attempt to isolate republicans in the confines of a barracks.
“Then as a parting shot one of the officers said that we ‘better get used to it because we’ll be seeing them a lot more often’.
The levels of PSNI harassment and intimidation had only gotten worse in recent times, he said.
“Where is the accountability we were promised? Where are the manners we were told would be put on this force? Judging by the harassment that has taken place this weekend, it’s getting to the stage where local republicans are unable to venture into the centre of their own city.”