Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland says he was forced to 'cut ties' with his family after joining the force

Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland says he was forced to 'cut ties' with his family after joining the force

A CATHOLIC police officer serving in Northern Ireland has revealed how he had to cut ties with members of his family after joining the PSNI.

In an interview with the BBC, the officer maintained he had made the right career choice despite being isolated from many of his closest loved-ones since taking the job.

The PSNI was formed in 2001 following a revamp of the controversial Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), itself set up in 1922.

The RUC is thought to have killed 55 people during the Troubles, 28 of whom were civilians.

In the same period, 19 members of the RUC were killed and almost 9,000 injured in paramilitary attacks – mostly by the Provisional IRA – which made it the most dangerous police force in the world to work for in the early 1980s.

The Derry-based policeman, who wished to remained anonymous for security reasons, said he had to "weigh up" his options before joining the PSNI.

"I have to make sacrifices," he told BBC Radio Foyle. "Once you join up as someone from Derry it is very hard to socialise with your family, or come back into the city.

"I'm sure I do face prejudice but I am thick skinned and stubborn, I don't really worry about that, I just move on."

Enduring perceptions

His comments come after the PSNI admitted continuing difficulties in recruiting new officers from a Catholic and nationalist background – a specific aim of the force since its creation almost 18 years ago.

The officer admitted the fear of assassination remains a constant concern for potential Catholic recruits and said the possibility of an attack on his family sometimes crosses his mind.

"The issue we have here is people are afraid, lots of people talk to us and say they want to do the job, but they are afraid of the comeback, with their family living in Derry," he said.

"When we are out there you have to be switched on, ready to react, things happen in a heartbeat, and you have always to be prepared for that."

The officer admitted to "slagging" standards of policing in Northern Ireland himself as a youth, but felt it was time to "put my money where my mouth was" by signing up.

He added that challenging the attitudes of younger people nowadays could improve perceptions of policing in Northern Ireland for good.

"Young ones today still have the same attitude that older people have," he said.

"As police officers we get it from both side, in terms of hearing 'you are always picking on us, never on the other side'.

"You have to start integrating schools, because at the end of the day we all support the same teams, like the same things, watch the same TV programmes. The only difference is if you go to a church or chapel, and that shouldn't be a major issue that it comes down to religion."