Wednesday, 6 April 2011

50:50 - Time was right to end it.

There has been an absolutely heartwarming response from the public following the brutal murder of Ronan Kerr at the weekend. It has been acknowledged by many as almost unprecedented in it's depth of emotion. One of the most frequently mentioned responses is that of a desire amongst young Catholics to now join the PSNI. This is, of course, a brilliant effect and the exact opposite of the murderers intent. What I do not agree with, however, is that the recently ceased policy of 50:50 needs to be reinstated.

50:50 was adopted as one of a range of proposals in order to reform the Police service of the RUC into the PSNI, a service that the Nationalist community could trust and that Northern Ireland as a while could recognise as impartial and fair. Those that think this can only be achieved through a simple policy of positive discrimination are themselves guilty of unjustified prejudice for it is wrong to assume that a person from one particular background is unable to treat those different from themselves fairly.

For those of a Protestant background 50:50 was always a very bitter pill to swallow. It was claimed as unfair and discriminatory. It was. However, there is a strong argument that it was also necessary and if the proof of success is in the pudding, the overwhelming support for the PSNI over the last few days shows that despite it's inherent unfairness 50:50, as part of overall reform, played it's part well.

It is it's success that negates the need for it's return. Young Catholics are now not just undeterred from joining the PSNI but are actually enthusiastic so a tactic designed to to achieve that purpose is redundant. A police service with a true ethos of neutrality and fairness does not need to be strictly representative of the religious make up of society. In my mind, the PSNI represent those values at least as well as, if not better than, any Western professional police force and so recruitment requirements should be strictly on ability to do the job and not on religious affiliation.

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