The head of the Limerick Garda Division yesterday challenged a claim that greater leadership is needed from the force’s management on issues relating to the gay community.
Adam Long, a board member of the National Lesbian and Gay Federation, told a meeting of the Limerick City and County joint policing committee that while there was an appreciation by individual gardaí on the beat of problems lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people face, they often feel isolated when dealing with some members of the force who can be hostile.
Chief Supt David Sheahan told the meeting he was ‘miffed’ by Mr Long’s claim and outlined steps that had been taken to ensure good contact with the LGBT community.
Mr Long told the committee that a lack of Garda understanding had led to under-reporting of assaults on members of the LGBT community.
He said: “Over the past five years 81% of LGBT people who have been assaulted have not reported these assaults.”
Mr Long said training was the key in modern police forces. However, training among gardaí in this country was sporadic and varied from region to region.
While they come across goodwill from individual gardaí, Mr Long said this culture must be reflected across the force.
He said: “The feeling is that this is lacking. While there is an awareness among ordinary gardaí on the beat, there is a perception, and evidence that they are not getting support from higher levels in the force.”
Mr Long said that last year LGBT gardaí were not allowed to parade in uniform when a European gay police conference was held in Dublin.
He said: “That set back a lot of good work. They should have reflected that it would be appropriate for gardaí within the LGBT community to take part in this parade like a St Patrick’s day parade. We feel that would be a very positive statement and not political.”
Gay couples, he said, feel uncomfortable walking streets holding hands and there was still a nervousness by gay people to express themselves publicly.
Chief Supt Sheahan said there is a lot of contact at national level between the An Garda Síochána and the LGBT community to ensure the equal rights of people were protected.
He said he was pleased to say there was nothing wrong in these relations in Limerick where there was a sergeant and seven gardaí who had undergone specialist training in this area.
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