05/02/2020

Sinn Fein Attends PSNI Recruitment Launch

Stormont deputy first minister and Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill has attended a PSNI recruitment event in what has been hailed an historic move.

Ms O'Neill joined Chief Constable Simon Byrne, first minister Arlene Foster and other senior police officers and politicians at the launch of the student officer recruitment drive in Belfast on Tuesday.

Her attendance is understood to be the first time such a senior Sinn Fein figure has advocated for policing as a positive career choice among her constituents.

Chief Constable Byrne hailed the move as "seismic and historic".

It's understood police officials were only informed of Ms O'Neill's attendance less than an hour before her arrival.

"I think it's seismic and historic in terms of the PSNI and the commitment we've heard from Sinn Fein today, but indeed all political leaders have joined us in this launch," Mr Byrne commented.

"Its our biggest campaign to date and to have their unswerving support is something I am really pleased and very grateful for and very proud of, so I would like to extend my thanks."

The republican leader was joined by her party colleague and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly, who said the police service should become more representative of the whole community.

Around 600 student officers are to be recruited over the following months, with applications from Catholics, females, members of the LGBT+ community and other underrepresented groups encouraged.

Sinn Fein believes the controversial policy of 50/50 recruitment should be returned.

Mr Kelly said: "As a member of the Policing Board I attended today's event alongside Michelle O'Neill and other political parties.

"The PSNI needs to attract more recruits from a nationalist background, women, members of the LGBT community and those who have come to make their home here.

"Ongoing challenges over legacy and the PSNI's policy on disclosure has damaged public confidence in policing, particularly among the nationalist community.

"We took the opportunity to make it clear to the PSNI that 50/50 recruitment should be on the table.

"There is responsibility on the PSNI Chief Constable, Policing Board and politicians to ensure there is a proper civic, community policing service."



(JG/CM)

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