An Garda Síochána has been ordered to pay €25,400 to two men after discriminating against them when refusing to consider their applications for the force as they were over 35 years of age at the time.
This follows Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer, Vivian Jackson finding that the two, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ronald Boyle, were discriminated against by the gardaí on the grounds of age when seeking to join the force.
Mr Jackson has ordered that each man be paid €12,700 — the maximum compensation possible allowed under the equality legislation when the men initiated their cases in 2006/2007 — for “the distress suffered as a result of this discrimination”.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) legally represented both men and the rulings for the two have taken almost 15 years to secure.
Today, the commission welcomed the rulings and called on Justice Minister Helen McEntee to review An Garda Síochána's 35-year age limit.
The commission stated this would bring the gardaí into step with other police forces internationally, including in the UK, and in line with the findings of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland which stated that “age diversity should be encouraged. The current maximum age limit of 35 is outdated and should be scrapped”.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s and Mr Boyle’s discrimination cases were put on hold pending the resolution of Judicial Review proceedings and ultimately saw the Supreme Court refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
A landmark ruling in 2018 by the CJEU cleared the way for the cases to proceed at the WRC.
Mr Boyle and Mr Fitzpatrick had sought to join the gardaí between 2005 and 2007, but were refused entry based on Garda admission and appointments regulations which set the upper age limit for entry as a trainee at under 35.
Their cases centered on whether the Garda Commissioner could show that the application of an upper age limit in the regulations was justified as a genuine occupational requirement or on the basis of fulfilling a legitimate employment policy under the relevant EU and national law provisions.
Mr Jackson also found that the Garda Commissioner had not shown that there would be a significant number of members of gardaí unable to perform physically demanding tasks if this upper age limit did not apply.
Mr Jackson also found that the Garda Commissioner had also not shown that the maximum recruitment age could be justified on the basis of training requirements or the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement.
Commenting on the outcome, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I’m glad that finally after nearly 14 years, in my case, a decision has been reached which I hope will have a positive influence on the recruitment age for An Garda Síochána, and indeed will reflect positively with regard to how potential applicants across all sectors are perceived irrespective of age.”
Mr Fitzpatrick is today a volunteer member of the Garda Reserve based in Dublin.
Mr Boyle said: “The discrimination I suffered by An Garda Síochána/Department of Justice was based not on my ability, but solely and exclusively on my age."
Mr Boyle called on Ms McEntee to bring an end to “this ongoing prejudice in the same way previous discriminatory regulations, such as height and eyesight requirements have been abolished and bring An Garda Síochána into line with neighbouring police forces where my fellow Irish citizens do not suffer such discrimination”.
Chief commissioner of the IHREC, Sinéad Gibney stated: “Discrimination holds real and significant impacts for people.
She said: “I pay credit to the determination of Brian and Ronald in persevering with their cases despite such a long delay to secure today’s decisions. We hope that their work to secure justice will pave the way in ensuring that others do not suffer this kind of age discrimination when seeking to join the Garda Síochána.
She said: “These cases are also significant for the application of EU equality law rights as the WRC, in these instances, has effectively dis-applied national law which does not comply with EU law in line with the important judgment of the European Court delivered in 2018.”