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August

The purpose of this press statement is to outline how and why this decision was taken by the Garda Commissioner.

 

I am directed by the Garda Commissioner to refer to the above matter and particularly to the vast amount of media coverage and opinion being expressed by a variety of people. The purpose of this press statement is to outline how and why this decision was taken by the Garda Commissioner.  

 

There is no doubt that the Garda uniform and dress standards present unique issues in accommodating cultural diversity. These are challenges faced by all facets of Irish society as diversity and integration more and more become real issues. The Garda Síochána has, historically, been seen as providing an impartial police service, policing all sections of society equally. 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 Síochána which the Commissioner feels the public would not want.  

 

The Garda Commissioner has set the required standards of dress and behaviour for An Garda Síochána and these standards are binding on all members of the organisation.  

Within the principles of an intercultural approach An Garda Síochána are not advocating one religious belief over another, nor are we, in any way, being racist. We are attempting to firmly retain an image of impartiality while providing a state service to all citizens.  

The decisions regarding our integration policy, including that of the wearing of a turban, were not made on a whim, but rather following extensive research and consultations.  

In March, 2006, the Garda Commissioner established a group to examine the issues relating to integration of religious and ethnic minorities into An Garda Síochána and the development of appropriate supports. That group undertook substantial research and engaged in a wide consultation process.

 

Bodies consulted included:- National Consultative Committee on Racism & Interculturalism; The Equality Authority; public & private bodies both in this jurisdiction and overseas, including other police services and a number of consultants specialising in the area of diversity & integration.  

There are three clear identifiable models of integration which can be followed and each of these have been examined. Assimilation aims at making minority groups almost invisible by assimilating them fully into the culture of their new environment, whereas the multicultural approach aims to accommodate all differences, which in itself does little to promote interaction.  

 

It is now accepted by many that a more modern, energetic approach is required to integrate diverse populations into a common liberal culture. An Garda Síochána believes that the intercultural approach can achieve this through reasonable and common-sense measures.

 

Within the intercultural approach – common sense and reasonable measures An Garda Síochána has made many advancements including: -   

Entry requirements to the organisation were changed to allow and encourage those of different backgrounds and cultures to qualify for membership; 

The Garda Racial and Intercultural Office was established in 2001 to oversee and advise on these issues; 

In excess of 500 Garda Ethnic Liaison Officers have been appointed throughout the organisation to implement the integration policies at the front line; 

A training package, Diversity ‘Works’, is being rolled out across the organisation to increase awareness of diversity issues; 

A Human Rights Audit of Garda practices, policies, processes and procedures was undertaken and it’s findings published; 

An Action Plan was devised and is being implemented across the organisation to address the criticisms of the Audit; 

Special dietary arrangements (for choice, medical or religious reasons) are now in place at the Garda College;

Spiritual and pastoral care across a number of religions are provided for Garda members and this will be added to as needs arise; 

The Garda Síochána Diversity Strategy & Implementation Plan will shortly be signed off by the Commissioner. 

 

These initiatives, including that of dress standards, comply fully with the intercultural approach adopted by An Garda Síochána, with the sole aim of ensuring the integrity of the organisation and its capacity to provide an impartial service to the citizens of this State.  

The increasing range of diversity in modern Ireland will continue to present challenges for all of us, not least An Garda Síochána. To effectively achieve integration of many cultures into a single organisation, will require a very fluid approach and policies and practices will be altered and adjusted where appropriate. However, the Garda Commissioner is satisfied that the intercultural approach and the decisions made within that framework, to date, is the right approach at this time for An Garda Síochána and the communities it is sworn to serve.  

 

Kevin Donohoe

Superintendent Head of Garda Press & Public Relations 

23rd August 2007