Green Party calls on gardai to rethink its ban on Sikh turban
THE Sikh recruit to the Garda Reserve who is banned from wearing his religious headgear now has the backing of the junior Government partners, the Green Party.
The controversy over the turban ban stepped up a gear yesterday as Sikh police officers in London accused the Garda Siochana of "racial discrimination".
The Greens' policy of seeking a reversal of the turban ruling clashes with the position of ministers from their main coalition partners Fianna Fail.
Green Party justice and equality spokesman, Ciaran Cuffe is going to take up the matter with Justice Minister Brian Lenihan.
The turban ban is supported by Integration Minister Conor Lenihan, who says people coming to this country must accept our culture.
The Sikh recruit was in training for a number of months and reportedly raised the issue of his turban at an early stage.
London Metropolitan Police Sikh Association spokesman Palbinder Singh said the recruit was assured he would be able to wear his turban as part of training.
Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy is being urged to change the policy of not allowing the wearing of what the gardai describe as "non-standard items of uniform".
The Garda Press Office says all members of the force are required to wear standard issue uniform when on operational duties.
"This policy is in keeping with the National Action Plan Against Racism and the organisation's commitment to following an intercultural approach," a statement says.
Mr Singh said he was dismayed and shocked by the decision as it was very hurtful to the Sikh community.
"You cannot ask for individuals who come from different countries to come here and to shun their religious beliefs," he said.
Mr Cuffe has written to Commissioner Conroy asking him to reverse the decision as it is in complete contrast to other reserve forces in Britain and Canada.
And police forces in Britain, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan and India have no problem allowing Sikh members to wear turbans, he added.
Although his view is completely different to Conor Lenihan, the Green Party TD said he did not have a problem with his fellow Government TD.
"I think there's room for a diversity of opinion in Government as I also think there's room for diversity in the gardai," he said.