EU to decide Garda age row

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A legal row over which State body should examine claims of discrimination arising from maximum age limits on new entrants to the gardaí will become before the EU’s top court today .

Three men who wished to join the force are claiming they were discriminated against because of the maximum age limit of 35 years for new trainee gardaí.

Applications submitted by the three men to join the gardaí, between 2004 and 2007, were not considered as they were all older than 35.

Garda regulations, which stipulate that new recruits must be aged between 18 and 35, were introduced in November 2004.

The Court of Justice of the European Union will, this morning, be asked to decide if the Workplace Relations Commission (previously the Equality Tribunal) or the High Court has jurisdiction to make a ruling on the case.

The case was referred to the CJEU by the Supreme Court in Ireland. It originally came before the Equality Tribunal (now the Workplace Relations Commission) in 2008, when the three men — Ronald Boyle, Gerald Cotter, and Brian Fitzpatrick — claimed the age limit was contrary to the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive.

The minister for justice intervened and sought a judicial review of the Equality Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the complaint. The minister claims that, under the Constitution, only courts have jurisdiction to set aside a provision of national legislation, such as the maximum age limit for joining the police force.

The Equality Tribunal took the view that, as it was the body established to enforce national and EU employment equality legislation, it had all the necessary powers to hear the case.

The tribunal was supported by the three complainants. In 2009, the High Court ruled that the Equality Tribunal had no power to decide if the 35-year age limit was discriminatory.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton said only the High Court could make a declaration that the Garda age limit was in conflict with EU legislation. The minister and the Garda commissioner have argued the rules on age are consistent with the Equality Act and the EU Equal Treatment Directive.

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