The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have launched their first recruitment drive in over three years, and among their goals is to draft more Catholics into the force.

The plan is to recruit 100 new officers before the end of the current financial year in April 2014. During the following financial year they want to recruit a further 378 officers.

As part of the recruitment drive, the PSNI are holding a number of events to promote and encourage applications. They are particularly keen for applicants from Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Londonderry.

Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie told UTV: "We want to make sure we have sufficient police officer resilience to deal with the challenges ahead.

"Certainly we have been under some pressure over the last few months with regard to our police resources so it is important we keep that resilience up.

"Also because we are losing a lot of experienced officers through retirement we feel time is right to open up our doors."

She continued: "In the first tranche we will recruit 100 officers and after that a maximum of 378 officers in the next year subject, of course to budget confirmation.

"We hope that will bring us up to just under 7,000 officers, subject to consultation with the Policing Board.

"It is a really positive thing that we are opening our doors again to bring in new and younger police officers and in fact specifically we are targeting younger people between 18 and 24.

"We are also targeting women, Catholics and for people from the west of Northern Ireland. So Londonderry/Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh in particular."

The senior police officer described the challenges facing the rank and file officers.

She continued: "Policing worldwide is challenging and sometimes a dangerous job that we expect, even aside from the specific threat we face here in Northern Ireland.

"The community expects police officers to step into dangerous situations where perhaps members of the community would walk away.

"And it is quite right that police officers do serve and protect the public particularly those who are most vulnerable.

"And in order to do that it is important we have sufficient resources to deal with surge in demand, public disorder and the specific dissident republican threat."

According to the BBC, there are currently around 6,900 police officers in Northern Ireland.