Gardaí want a more diverse force

Frontline gardaí have said the lack of members from ethnic minorities was a “pressing problem” for the organisation, and action was needed to address it.

Commission on the Future of Policing chair Kathleen O'Toole

The Garda Representative Association, which has around 10,500 members, said there was not a single person of African or Caribbean origin in the force.

The editorial in the Garda Review, the GRA’s official journal, suggested it was an issue the new Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland should examine.

“Despite the patterns of immigration and current ethnic diversity in our community, this has yet to be appropriately reflected in selection and recruitment processes — and is perhaps a most pressing problem to be addressed,” it said.

To date, no one in authority had provided an answer as to “why there is not a substantial influx of people of colour” into the organisation.

“Ideally we envisage greater recruitment from the non-Irish nationals who have made Ireland their home alongside more members from the LGBT community and Traveller groups,” it said.

The editorial said this would have policing benefits and “societal acceptance” and maintain the gardaí at the heart of the community.

“Recruitment to An Garda Síochána, especially from black or Asian minority ethnic (BAME) community is conspicuous by its absence, albeit there are a few exceptions from the other minority ethnic groups,” it said.

“There is currently no member with African or Caribbean origin; this needs to be addressed if An Garda Síochána is to reflect the constituent community of modern Ireland.”

One of the terms of reference for the commission, set up by the Government last May, is to examine the composition of, and recruitment for, the organisation, to ensure “personnel reflect the diversity of Irish society”.

Previous figures estimated the number of foreign nationals applying to join the gardaí, since recruitment restarted in 2014, has been less than 3% of all applicants.

The 2016 Census shows 17% of the population was born outside Ireland, rising to around 22% in the 25-34 age group.

There are 58,000 Black Irish or Black African people in Ireland and more than 19,000 Chinese (up 95% on 2011) and almost 80,000 other Asian (up 19%). There are more than 30,000 Travellers and there are more than 63,000 Muslims (up 29%).

At its first press briefing, the commission’s chair, Kathleen O’Toole, current police chief of Seattle and formerly of Boston, said it was “really important” that the Garda Síochána reflected the diversity of Irish society.

Ten years ago, as head of the Garda Inspectorate, Ms O’Toole said “energetic recruitment programmes” helped attract minorities into the Boston Police.

At the launch of a recruitment campaign last September, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said: “A diverse and inclusive workforce provides the potential to better understand and serve our community. I want people of every background to help us to become a 21st-century police service.”

She said An Garda Síochána would work with the Public Appointments Service to reach as many potential applicants as possible.

The then justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, said: “In particular, I urge members of minority and new communities to consider applying so that the membership of An Garda Síochána will reflect the diverse communities that it serves.”



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