The number of Catholics in the Police Service of Northern Ireland is at an all-time high, Northern Ireland’s policing minister Paul Goggins has said.

Today Catholics account for more than a quarter of police officers in Northern Ireland, at 26.14 percent.

Goggins told the British parliament that the police service is on course to reach the 30 per cent Catholic target by 2010/11, as stated in the Patten Report, the 1999 report that reformed how Northern Ireland was policed.

One of the Patten Report’s major reforms was that the old Royal Ulster Constabulary – which was disliked by much of the Catholic community during the Troubles – be renamed the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Another was that Northern Ireland’s police have a 50-50 recruitment policy between Catholics and Protestants.

"Since the introduction of the temporary 50:50 provisions in 2001,” Goggins said, “tremendous progress has been made towards a more representative police service and our ultimate goal of 30 percent Catholic composition.” At the time of the Patten Report, Goggins continued, the Catholic composition was just 8.3 percent.

Female composition of the police force has nearly doubled, from 12 percent in 2001 to 23.43 percent today. There are also currently 31 officers from an ethnic minority background including Pakistani, Black Caribbean, Chinese and Indian.

The police officer who was shot earlier this month ago by dissident Republicans, Stephen Carroll, was himself a Catholic.

Meanwhile, IRA dissidents and their supporters were blamed for a series of hijackings earlier this week in working-class Catholic areas. The police said that dissidents were also behind coordinated effort to block roads and threaten police stations in parts of Belfast and in the Kilwilkie district of Lurgan, County Armagh.