The PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, has warned nationalists reluctant to join the North's police force that it would be a tragedy if they were denied the opportunity because of Sinn Féin opposition.

Huge Orde was speaking at the monthly lunch organised by the Association of European Journalists in Dublin.

Mr Orde said he understood why some people did not want to apply to the PSNI until Sinn Féin joined the policing board.

However, with 5,000 applications currently being received every time 270 places are advertised, he said the force's popularity was now a factor.

Earlier, Mr Orde said that the proportion of Catholic members of the PSNI was now standing at nearly 19%, up from the 8% in the RUC.  

However, he accepted it would take a number of years of 50:50 recruiting before parity between the communities was achieved.