Turbans and the Garda Uniform.
The Irish Times reports on the annual Garda consultation forum with minority groups, which took place on Friday. Participants at the forum discussed the new Garda diversity strategy, which was published in May. The Garda reserve force can now boast a few members who are immigrants to Ireland, which is part of the reason why this sort of strategy is required. At the forum, Dr Jasbir Singh Puri argued that the police force was only partially open to ethnic minorities. In August 2007, Ravinder Singh, a Sikh member of the Garda reserve force in his 20’s was forbidden to wear a turban while on duty. The now defunct NCCRI had recommended that the Garda allow Sikh members to wear the turban while in uniform, but the police force seems to have thought best to ignore that advice. At the time of the original controversy, the Garda explained its uniform rules on the basis of the imperative of impartiality in policing, attempting to make the issue one of operational effectiveness, albeit broadly understood. John Leamy, the Garda ‘diversity champion’ took a similar approach on Friday. He said that when members of the force put on their uniform, they “leave their own personal beliefs outside the organisation.” Sikh representatives, however, are attempting to link the garda turban ban to a broader pattern of discrimination against Sikhs in the sphere of employment, grounded in a pro-assimilation mandate. At the forum, Dr Jasbir Singh Puri argued that the police force was only partially open to ethnic minorities.”You talk about openness, but the door is not fully open, it is partially open. You are denying the fundamental right to employment to all Irish children. These are Irish-born Sikh children.” Certainly, at the time of the 2007 debate, the Minister for Integration took the position that “[i]f we’re to take integration seriously…people who come here must understand our way of doing things’. The Irish Sikh Council decided not to mount a court challenge to the policy. Ronit Lentin has more analysis of the debate here.