A furious row is brewing over policing in Northern Ireland after it has been revealed that the PSNI have been hiring hundreds of former RUC officers.
The former RUC officers have been employed as civilian staff, however. Many of them left the force under the lucrative Patten redundancy scheme, which saw 4,000 leave to make way for 50/50 Catholic Protestant recruitment into the new PSNI.
Legislation states that anyone who volunteered to retire early under the Patten scheme has to repay any lump sum payment if they re-join the
police within a five-year period.
But that rule does not apply to anyone hired from a recruitment agency as a civilian.
Now Sinn Féin’s Policing Board member, Gerry Kelly, has called on officers who took large severance packages to repay the money if they have gone back to police work.
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“People who went out through the Patten scheme got huge severance packages, probably the best in the world,” he said.
“In some of these circumstances you are talking about people taking the package and coming back within months, sometimes to do the same job
as they left. None of that is acceptable,” said Kelly.
“What is clear about this is it is not right, it is not the way to take the policing project forward and we need to put an end to it and the justice minister can do that.”
However, Justice Minister David Ford said he was happy to discuss the matter but didn’t foresee any changes in the immediate future.
“It can only be done by the assembly. That would require approval by the justice committee, the executive and by the assembly as a whole,” he said.
“But I am not persuaded at this stage that it would be an issue which will be easy to address or it will be a process which would achieve what is being said.
“I am open to dialogue about the issue, but what is abundantly clear is there are wider employment law issues which would be brought in and I remain to be convinced that it would make the kind of change suggested.”