Ulster Unionist MP, Lady Hermon, has described Government legislation to renew the 50:50 recruitment procedure to the Police Service of Northern Ireland as “utterly repugnant” and described how she was “offended to the very core of her being that a British Government—a Labour Government at that—is legalising religious discrimination…”.
The Draft Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2007 followed hot on the heels of earlier legislation to extend the 50:50 police recruitment procedure to new police Community Support Officers, which was also bitterly opposed by the North Down MP as a dogged campaigner against religious discrimination.
During her impassioned contribution Lady Hermon described how it was “idiotic in the extreme…Having put recruits through a discriminatory recruitment procedure to join the police” that “those recruits are then obliged to swear an oath upholding equality and fundamental human rights.”
North Down’s MP also reminded committee members of “the intriguing position in which the Government now find themselves”, reminding members that: “Ostensibly, Sinn Fein voted overwhelmingly in support of policing at its ard fheis at the end of January.
Given, as the Secretary of State keeps reminding us, that we all live under a new dispensation in which Sinn Fein has signed up to policing, there is no earthly justification why we are again being asked to legalise religious discrimination in the recruitment of police officers”, she concluded.
March 14th, 2007
Ulster Unionist MP, Lady Hermon, launched a scathing attack on the latest round of policing reform in Northern Ireland during the recent debate on the Draft Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.
“I’m absolutely furious” she said “that the NIO chose to use an unamendable Order in Council to sneak through significant changes to policing and to the powers of the Police Ombudsman.”
This legislation both extends the 50:50 police recruitment procedure to Community Support Officers (CSOs) and also allows Nuala O’Loan’s Office to reopen cases where there is new and compelling evidence. “Since Secretary of State Peter Hain keeps reassuring the public that we have a new dispensation in Northern Ireland now that Sinn Fein has signed up to policing, what possible justification can he have for imposing the discriminatory 50:50 recruitment procedure at this stage for Community Support Officers?”
With some 400 Police CSOs to be recruited in the next few months, Lady Hermon stressed: “The old argument of the NIO that 50:50 recruitment had to restore an historic imbalance within the police service is wholly inapplicable in this instance. There is obviously no historic imbalance for Community Support Officers when we’ve never had them before. It’s utterly contemptible that the Government has legalised religious discrimination in further police recruitment.”
As for the extension of the Police Ombudsman’s powers, the North Down MP was “astounded that these now include power to reinvestigate a police officer who has already been acquitted.”
Although no DUP Members attended the Committee to vote against the legislation, Conservative MPs voted with the Ulster Unionist MP. The Liberal Democrats unexpectedly chose to endorse the extension of 50:50 recruitment by voting with the Government.
March 5th, 2007