Force only ‘partially open’ to minorities

THE Garda Síochána is only “partially open” to ethnic minorities, a leading member of the Sikh community told a Garda conference yesterday.

Dr Jasbir Singh Puri told Garda bosses that Sikhs were “excluded” from joining the force as they were not allowed to wear their sacred head turban.

The Garda conference heard that a case was going through the courts in which a Sikh was challenging the legality of the Garda uniform policy. The Equality Authority is supporting the case. In August 2007 a Sikh recruit to the Garda Reserve force was told he could not wear his turban.

“If you exclude certain communities, if you do not include all ethnic diversities, you are short of your strategy,” Dr Puri told the Garda consultation meeting with representatives of ethnic groups, held in Dublin.

“You talk about openness, but the door is not fully open, it is partially open. You are denying the fundamental right to employment to all Irish children. These are Irish-born Sikh children.”

The consultation meeting was held to discuss Garda Síochána Strategy and Implementation Plan 2009-2012. John Leamy, the Garda Síochána chief administration officer and the force’s “diversity champion”, said the force was open to the complex issue of headdress.

He said the Garda Commissioner had decided the uniform policy about two years ago.

“The force was open to considering it. A great deal of research was done. It was not an easy decision. But weighing up the pros and cons the policy decision was that impartiality of uniform was the key principle.”

He said the Garda uniform was part of the impartiality, including the cap and tunic. He said when members put on the uniform they “leave their own personal beliefs outside the organisation” and that “no religious symbols or emblems were allowed”.

Sergeant David McInerney of the Garda Intercultural Unit said there were 32 full time members from ethnic backgrounds – 51 including the Reserve.

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