The claim is only accurate for years 2013 to 2015.

PSNI composition

In 1999, when 8.3% of police officers were Catholics, the Independent Commission for Policing in Northern Ireland (better known as the Patten Commission) recommended making the composition of the police service more reflective of the population. From the pool of qualified candidates, “an equal number of Protestants and Catholics should be drawn”. Following this, a temporary 50:50 recruitment arrangement for the Police Service of Northern Ireland was implemented in 2001. The provisions were revisited in 2010 and ended in 2011, when the proportion of Catholic officers approached 30% of the police service composition. Today, PSNI statistics indicate that 32.1% of police officers identify as “Catholic”.

Only 20% Catholic recruits?

However, in the context of the PSNI’s new recruitment campaign, Stephen Martin, the acting Deputy Chief Constable, warned that the number of Catholic recruits had stalled in the last couple of years. On 2 October 2018, he told The Breakfast Show (1:40) on BBC Radio Foyle that one third of police applicants are from a Catholic community background, but that “those who actually make it into training and attest as constables, is about one in five if you look across 2016 and 2017”. This gave rise to a debate (Irish Times; Slugger O’Toole) about the reasons behind this underrepresentation and whether or not the 50:50 recruitment provisions should be reintroduced (The Nolan Show; Nelson McCausland; Gregory Campbell).

Data analysis from recruitment campaigns

In 2016 PSNI asked Deloitte to investigate “the barriers for individuals from a Catholic community background in considering the service as a potential career option”. Deloitte published a report, which analysed data from three recruitment campaigns from 2013 to 2015.

The report supports Martin’s claim in that 31% of the initial applicants were Catholics but this percentage reduced to 19% of the proportion of appointed officers.

2013-2015ApplicantsAppointed Officers
Protestant & Other69%81%

Three phases of imbalance in the recruitment process were identified: (1) applying for the recruitment process; (2) attending the initial selection test; and (3) succeeding the test.

However, in his radio interview, Martin was referring to the 2016-2017 period of recruitment. PSNI informed us by email that they cannot release the equality data for recruitments after May 2015: “We continue to process a very small number of candidates from these campaigns and cannot therefore release the equality data — to do so may subsequently identify the Community Background of the remaining candidates which would breach the Monitoring Regulations.”

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