Garda force 'is not racist'
THE Garda Commissioner has claimed the force is not being racist in refusing to let a Sikh reserve recruit wear his traditional turban.
In a defence of Garda policy, commissioner Noel Conroy said he believes Irish people do not want the traditional Garda uniform to be changed to allow for religious clothing such as turbans.
Instead, the public should be presented with an impartial police force where religious identity is not an issue, a Garda statement said yesterday.
The comments come after an ongoing controversy where a Sikh member of the Garda reserve was not allowed to wear his turban while on duty.
A number of other police forces, such as the London Metropolitan police, allow members to wear turbans.
The Irish Sikh Council reacted angrily to the news, saying the comments of the commissioner effectively meant that practicing Sikhs would not be able to join the gardai. They are calling on the Garda to reconsider its position.
Sikhs wear turbans to cover the long uncut hair worn as a sign of their commitment to their religious faith. The turban is a headdress consisting of a long scarf-like single piece of cloth wound round the head or an inner hat.
"The Garda Siochana has, historically, been seen as providing an impartial police service, policing all sections of society equally," the statement said. "By accommodating variations to our standard uniform and dress, including those with religious symbolism, may well affect that traditional stance and give an image of an Garda Siochana which the Commissioner feels the public would not want."
The force was trying to retain the "image of impartiality" in the gardai while "providing a state service to all citizens", according to the commissioners opinion.
"Within the principles of an intercultural approach, An Garda Siochana are not advocating one religious belief over another, nor are we, in any way, being racist," continued the statement.
However, Harpreet Singh, president of the Irish Sikh Council said the turbans could not be taken off and that the move would mean that Sikhs would not be able to join the Garda as a result.