RUC chief buoyed by rise in number of Catholic applicants

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The RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan yesterday welcomed new figures showing more than a third of 7,700 applicants to the province's new police service were Catholic.

The figures signalled a significant improvement on the last RUC recruitment drive in 1998 that saw only 22 per cent of applications from Catholics. The present force is about 92 per cent Protestant.

Sir Ronnie told his monthly meeting with the Police Authority that he was also buoyed by the news that 40 per cent of those signing up were women.

Sir Ronnie said: "Naturally we are pleased about the response to the recruitment competition from all communities but it is particularly encouraging to see such a high level of interest from Catholic and female applicants."

The recruitment process, which is being carried out by independent specialists Consensia, is due to be completed by September with the first 260 new officers on the streets by spring of next year.

Police Service chairman Pat Armstrong said the numbers of Catholics signing up to join was a real step forward. "The whole new approach to police recruitment seems to be reaping significant rewards," he said. "The community have shown their willingness to become involved in policing through the large numbers of applications received."

The shape of the new-look RUC will be one of the main issues to be resolved in the political talks due to begin later this month.

Meanwhile, the RUC is being reduced in number, with 1,250 set to go before the launch of the new policing service.