News Irish News

Sunday 24 March 2019

Sikh pleas will not sway Garda chiefs

Garda chiefs are expected to meet leaders of the Irish Sikh community next week in a bid to sort out the dispute over a ban on members of the force wearing turbans as part of the official uniform.

Both sides are anxious to end the controversy which has overshadowed attempts by the garda authorities to make the force more ethnically attractive as a career choice.

But the gardai will not back down on their turban ban, which is in line with their uniform and dress standards and integration policies.

The president of the Irish Sikh Council, Harpreet Singh said yesterday he was hopeful that the issue could be resolved amicably. He denied reports that his council was considering a High Court challenge to the garda regulation.

A date for the meeting has not yet been fixed but talks are likely to be arranged for next week when Commissioner Noel Conroy returns from holiday

But it is highly unlikely that changes will be made to the dress standards in the foreseeable future, according to a senior officer.

"The decisions on integration policy, including whether or not to allow the wearing of turbans, were made following extensive consultations and research.

"And in subsequent meetings with community representatives, no guarantees in regard to any exemptions were made. The uniform is the uniform," the officer added.

"Accommodating variations at this stage, including those with religious symbolism, could possibly affect the traditional stance of being an impartial service that polices all sections of society equally."

He pointed out that in a number of police forces in Britain recruits from the Sikh community had opted not to seek permission to wear turbans.

While in other forces there were concerns that allowing some exemptions to the standard regulations and standard uniforms had created problems about where to draw the line on changes.

The officer pointed out that Commissioner Conroy would use the meeting to explain the implications of the existing standards and the level of consultations that had been carried out prior to agreeing on guidelines.

He said the garda authorities were keen to address any other concerns expressed by the Sikh community and, where possible, achieve an outcome that was acceptable to everybody.

Gardai have already agreed to review how they recruit foreign nationals into the force after recent efforts produced a disappointing intake.

Seven thousand foreign nationals applied to join the Gardai over the past three years but only 200 -- a disappointing number -- made it through the aptitude tests.

Further assessments meant that only 11 out of an overall number of over a thousand students in training were from ethnic minority groups.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News