The RUC’s poor record of recruiting Catholic officers had “nothing to do with institutionalised prejudice”, according to the British Justice Minister Michael Gove.
The Conservative MP, in a 2000 paper for a Tory think-tank, blamed politicians such as John Hume and the targeting of Catholic officers by the IRA for the RUC’s poor record of recruiting Catholics.
Gove, who has been appointed Justice Minister in David Cameron’s new cabinet, outlined strong views on Northern Ireland and the peace-process in a paper for the Centre for Policy Studies in 2000.
His paper, which was highly critical of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, won the Charles Douglas-Home Prize.
In it, he criticised Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume’s failure to encourage Catholics to join the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
He wrote: “It is true that the RUC has encountered problems in recruiting Catholic officers. But the reason for that is nothing to do with institutionalised prejudice and almost everything to do with the IRA policy of targeting Catholic RUC officers as ‘traitors’ and the refusal of moderate nationalist politicians such as John Hume to encourage their constituents to join the RUC.
“It is notable that the level of Catholic applications to join the RUC rose sharply following the IRA cessation of violence.”
Gove’s paper, ‘The Price of Peace - an analysis of British policy in Northern Ireland’, called for a harder line on the peace process than that taken by the UK at the time under Tony Blair.
He argued that the system at Stormont, which remains in place today, of designating parties as nationalist or unionists leads to entrenched sectarianism and inhibits the development of parties on the left or right.
He also argued that the lack of an opposition at Stormont enforces a coalition at Stormont that may have “potentially harmful effects on democracy”.
In his conclusion, Mr Gove writes: “Ulster’s future lies, ultimately, either as a Province of the United Kingdom or a united Ireland. Attempts to fudge or finesse that truth only create an ambiguity which those who profit by violence will seek to exploit.
“Therefore, the best guarantee for stability is the assertion by the Westminster Government that it will defend, with all vigour, the right of the democratic majority in Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom.
“Ulster could then be governed with an Assembly elected on the same basis as Wales, and an administration constituted in the same way.
“Minority rights should be protected by the same legal apparatus which exists across the UK.”