Garda rank and file welcome moves as uniform(ity) makes way for diversity

Garda rank and file welcome moves as uniform(ity) makes way for diversity
File image of Garda passing out parade

Rank-and-file gardaí have welcomed moves to open up the force to religious and ethnic minorities by allowing members wear turbans, hijabs and possibly other items of cultural importance.

But they warn that the transformation of the force to one that fully reflects the diverse make-up of Irish society will take some time as the numbers from minority communities will need to increase by up to 36 times.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) says minorities make up just half a percent of the force compared to around 18% of the general poulation. Garda management say it is more like 1% but they also acknowledge that developing a diverse force will take time.

GRA general secretary, Pat Ennis, said there is a "subsantial deficit in social representation" in the force and the members welcomed moves to address it.

“Our members are keen to meet the challenges of dealing effectively and sensitively with multiple cultures, languages, religions, values and belief systems," he said.

Already the turban and hijab have been assessed as easily adaptable to the uniform. Other headwear, uniform modifications, the growing of beards and wearing of religious and cultural symbols will also be considered.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said: "We will be trying to accommodate all of those subject to operational, health and safety requirements. We need to ensure that our organisation is reflective of modern Irish society."

But the move is also a recognition that there are skills shortages within the force, such as a lack of Arabic speakers.

Josephine Feehily, chairwoman of the Policing Authority, said the force is facing new security risks and new forms of crime.

"Diversity of outlook, skills and background within the Garda members, Garda staff and Garda Reserve will be an important element in responding to that complexity."

Mr Twomey added that the push for greater diversity also extends to women, Travellers and the LGBT community, all of whom are also under-represented in the force.

The move, which ties in with a general new recruitment drive, was also welcomed by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Integration Minister David Stanton. Details of the drive are on publicjobs.ie and garda.ie and the closing date for applications is April 24.

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