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PSNI launches campaign to address declining numbers of Catholic recruits

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Creating a police service that is fully representative of Northern Ireland’s community will take at least another decade of “hard work”, a senior commander has warned.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton made the prediction as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launched a fresh recruitment campaign in the same week it marked 20 years since it was established.

In those two decades the proportion of Catholic officers has risen from 8 per cent to 32 per cent.

That rise was in large part achieved with the 50:50 recruitment measure that for 10 years ensured that an equal number of Protestants and Catholics were hired.

In recent years, with 50:50 no longer in operation, the number of recruits from the Catholic community has started to fall.

Of the officers hired in last year’s recruitment campaign, 75 per cent were Protestant (144) and 24 per cent were Catholic (46).

In the last campaign that used 50:50 in 2010, the breakdown of new Protestant and Catholic recruits was 53 per cent to 47 per cent.

Mr Hamilton said work was needed to reverse the recent trend.

He said Lord Patten, who proposed the policing reforms that saw the PSNI replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 2001, envisaged it taking 10 years for the new service to be reflective of the community.

“We’re now 20 years past,” he said.

“I do think that we are continuing to normalise our society. I think as we make more progress at every level, then I think it becomes more attractive for people.

“The more we can collectively remove the barriers to this then the better. But I do think we’re probably looking at another 10 years of hard work at this at least.”

Mr Hamilton said the police’s role in investigating legacy crimes linked to the Troubles was a major factor in dissuading people from the nationalist community from joining the PSNI.

He said the ongoing threat from dissident republicans was another.

The commander said those issues highlighted that reintroducing 50:50 recruitment — a decision that could only be taken by politicians — would not in itself address the declining numbers of Catholic recruits.

“Positive action measures have worked in the past but some of the environmental issues we’ve talked about, such as issues around legacy issues, around the dissident threat and so forth, are going to take a bigger solution potentially than just taking positive action measures,” he said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last two years against the issue of dissent republicanism, trying to make communities safer for everybody.

“So there’s a number of things that probably need to happen here to try and make this as accessible a service for people as we want it to be.”

Mr Hamilton acknowledged that the PSNI also faced a “challenge” in convincing young loyalists that the police offered a good career path.

Loyalists have been angered by the PSNI’s handling of a number of incidents, including last year’s funeral of former IRA member Bobby Storey, and claim that republicans are afforded preferential treatment by the police.

“The issue of confidence in the loyalist community has been writ large with us for a large part of this year,” said Mr Hamilton.

“We understand that, we recognise that. So we’re not complacent at all about what that means. Our outreach programme for this recruitment campaign includes loyalist areas and we hope it works.”

Unionist politicians have called for Chief Constable Simon Byrne to resign on a number of occasions over the last year.

However, Mr Hamilton insisted Mr Byrne was a “modernising chief constable” who was committed to developing a more diverse workforce and senior leadership team.

The recruitment campaign launched on Tuesday is seeking to hire 400 new officers.

Factoring in expected retirements, the drive will see the PSNI’s overall officer number rise by about 100 to 7,100 by next March.

Mr Hamilton said feedback from previous campaigns had highlighted the need to facilitate more small-scale engagement events within communities.

The closing date for applications is November 19th.

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German doctor faces charges after administering thousands of self-made vaccines

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A millionaire German doctor is facing criminal charges after vaccinating an estimated 20,000 people with a self-developed vaccine against Covid-19.

Some 200 people were queueing for a jab at the airport in the northern city of Lübeck on Sunday when police arrived and closed down the improvised vaccination centre.

A police spokesman said doctors had already administered about 50 vaccines: not from BioNTech or Moderna or another recognised producer, but a home brew by Dr Winfried Stöcker.

The controversial doctor, who is also the owner of Lübeck airport, insists his jab is 97 per cent effective against Covid-19.

Dr Stöcker was not present, did not administer vaccinations and faces no charges, according to his lawyer Wolfgang Kubicki, a leading member of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is part of Berlin’s new coalition government.

Lübeck state prosecutors see things differently. On Monday, they announced an investigation into four doctors, aged between 61 and 81, for involvement in the unauthorised vaccination centre.

Dr Stöcker may also face legal action for running an unlicensed vaccination campaign, which is considered a criminal offence under Germany’s Medicines Act. 

Contacted by the Bild tabloid, Dr Stöcker said he had not submitted his vaccine for approval because the process would “take too long and cost millions”.

“We have a responsibility to the patients, not the state, but the police stopped everything,” said the 74-year-old.

In May 2020 Dr Stöcker claimed to have developed a traditional vaccine – without any external assistance – similar to that used against tetanus, using inactive pathogen cells to activate the body’s immune system.

The doctor says he tested the jab on himself and some 100 volunteers before rolling out the vaccinations around the country. In total, he claims some 20,000 people have received a dose of his vaccine.

“Some 2,000 of them are under observation, no side effects were noted to date,” he said. “There were virus breakthroughs in 10 people.”

‘Lubecavax’

On his website, he says his “Lubecavax”, a three-dose vaccine, has proven highly effective. Some 376 friends and colleagues were vaccinated with the substance during the summer, he wrote, and “97 per cent developed high concentrations of antibodies against coronavirus”.

“In our view the ‘Lübeck vaccine’ is safe, effective and presumably the most suitable vaccine for children,” he adds in a blog post. “Doctors have the right to mix together compounds that they believe will help people.”

In this assertion he is drawing on a 2000 German constitutional court ruling which forbade federal authorities from prohibiting an experimental treatment of two doctors using stem cells.

News of the rogue vaccination has horrified German medical authorities. The Paul Ehrlich Institute, which is responsible for approval of medicines and vaccines in Germany, said on Monday it had offered Dr Stöcker assistance with testing in September and December of last year, but that he had not responded to the institute’s offers.

The hurdles to vaccination licensing “are deliberately high”, the institute added, “to ensure the maximum possible security for participants in clinical trials”.

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Denmark school closes due to suspected Omicron Covid-19 case

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Odense Municipality confirmed the closure in a statement on Monday after informing parents and pupils on Sunday evening.

The Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed) said on Monday morning that the case is suspected of being linked to the new Omicron variant.

READ ALSO: Denmark does not rule out new travel restrictions after Omicron variant detected

The authority recommends contact tracing up to “third” contacts, or people who have been in contact with suspected close contacts to the confirmed or “first” case.

Pupils and teachers in the same class as the confirmed or “first” case are considered “second” contacts, with close contacts to the class the “third” link.

People who fall into these categories are asked to isolate at home until they have tested negative on the fourth and sixth days since the potential contact.

The school is closed as of Monday while contact tracing is undertaken.



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Trees go to pot to ensure many festive returns

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Christmas trees aren’t just for Christmas, at least for the Cork business with a pot-grown tree initiative that sees householders rent their tree in early December and bring it back to the farm in early January, to be cared for all year around.

Colm Crowley from Glanmire says his 5ft trees, which are rented out for €40 a year, are a very sustainable way to celebrate Christmas.

Customers can rent or buy a living Christmas tree in a pot from Cork Pot Grown Christmas Trees. The rented ones are then taken back to the farm in Rosscarbery, west Cork, after the festive season.

“I started off with small pot-grown trees and I started selling them for €10 or €15 and a lot of customers were coming in asking, ‘have you anything bigger?’ It got me thinking that there was a market for bigger pot-grown Christmas trees.

‘Always alive’

“With the pot-grown trees, they are never dead. They are always alive. They continue to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen as well,” he says.

“They come with a care leaflet. The water would be the big one: making sure they have enough water but not too much because too much would cause root rot,” he says.

“I found that pot-grown trees are very big in America and it has started spreading to Germany and the UK. I knew that Irish people would love it.”

It takes 12-14 years to grow a Christmas tree from seed, with a lot of work involved in pruning, shaping and making the tree perfect.

“It is only used for four weeks. With the pot growns, we get to use the tree over and over. That said, cut Christmas trees are also very environmentally friendly because when a tree is cut in November, another one or two are planted in spring. With the pot growns, between November and spring that cycle continues, so for those few months the Christmas trees continue to take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide oxygen.”

As rental trees will continue to grow throughout the year, Crowley is anticipating customers not recognising their tree when it is returned to them the following Christmas.

‘Exact same tree’

“They send me pictures looking for the exact same tree,” he says.“With the rentals, you are getting the same Christmas tree you liked and picked out. But it will have continued to grow. There is a lovely smell – you are bringing a bit of forest in your house.”

Crowley says the real Christmas tree business has grown hugely since he first started selling, from his mother Margaret’s house in Ballinlough, Cork city, in 1998 before moving to bigger premises.

Last year was particularly buoyant for sales as families sought to create a festive atmosphere during the pandemic.

“Sales right across the country were probably up around 50 per cent. People wanted a bit of happiness. They needed cheering up.”

Customers are encouraged to name their trees, with the two most popular names being “Spruce Springsteen” and “Woody”.

The father of two adds that he couldn’t survive the December whirlwind without the hard work of wife Jacqui and mother-in-law Rose.



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