It shouldn’t have come as a surprise… As the BBC reports, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, published the Government’s response [pdf file] to the public consultation on the temporary 50:50 recruitment provisions of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. From Owen Paterson’s statement
Owen Paterson said: “Some ten years after the introduction of the provisions, a significant proportion of serving officers – currently 29.76% – are now from a Catholic community background. This is at the top end of the critical mass identified by Patten. It represents a tremendous change since the time of the Patten report when only 8.3% of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers were from a Catholic community background. Last year also saw the completion of devolution, with policing and justice powers transferred from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Executive. With this transformation in the composition of the PSNI and Northern Ireland ’s continued political progress, the use of these special measures can no longer be justified.
The Government, the Department of Justice and the PSNI remain fully committed to the principle of the PSNI being reflective of the society it polices. The provisions have clearly been instrumental in getting us to this point but they were always intended to be temporary and now that the principle has become fully embedded it is right that they come to an end allowing PSNI composition to develop naturally.
We want to see this progress continue and for Catholic representation in the PSNI to grow further over time. We must all play a part. Patten recommended that the key to making the PSNI representative of the communities it serves was for community leaders to actively encourage their young people to join the service and to remove all discouragements from joining. Patten’s vision of a fair, impartial and effective Police Service does not end with the provisions.
Policing is, rightly, now a devolved matter so this issue must be locally owned and taken forward by everyone in Northern Ireland . The Chief Constable will continue to report and be accountable to the Policing Board. The PSNI Shared Future Strategy agreed by the Policing Board demonstrates PSNI’s continuing commitment to promoting equality and diversity, achieving good relations and building trust with the community.
The issue of a PSNI which is reflective of the community it polices is now one which must be owned and taken forward by local politicians, local community leaders and all of the people of Northern Ireland .” [added emphasis]