David Ford said: “Two weeks ago, I expressed my concern that so many members of Antrim DPP had been effectively sacked just half way into their four year term. I have now had the opportunity to review all the new appointments.
“It is clear that across Northern Ireland, there has been a huge cull of independent members. Experience has gone out of the window, leaving very large numbers of new members to learn the system in the less than two years remaining.
“The Policing Board states that 105 independents belong to what it calls ‘the Catholic community’ and 106 to the ‘non-Catholic community’ have been appointed. What a perfect balance. It’s even closer than the ‘official’ election results in Zimbabwe.
“First, let’s be clear. In political terms, there is no such thing as either ‘the Catholic community’ or the ‘non-Catholic community’. Does anyone believe a member of the Alliance party with connections to the security forces is the same as a former IRA commander, just because they were both brought up in ‘Catholic’ families? The idea of a ‘non-Catholic community’ is even more bizarre.
“The appointment procedure is deeply flawed. Two years ago, I interviewed candidates for the local DPP. All that we were required to do was to check that candidates satisfied a certain basic set of criteria, and forward their names to the Policing Board. After that, it appears to be a case of ticking boxes – of which the most important is the perceived religious background – rather than getting the best people for the job. The figures of 105 and 106 show what the prime concern was.
“I want to see DPPs work and work well. There is a real job to be done holding policing to account. But that needs to be done by getting the best people for the job, ensuring that the team is broadly representative of the local community. It requires getting a balance of experience and fresh ideas, not sacking a majority of members half way through their term. It does not mean that the primary – almost the sole – issue is this bogus community balance.
“If the current system is not changed, I have grave concerns about the future of DPPs.”