Ethnic Minorities in an Garda Síochána
Further to Mairead’s post the other day, I’d like to expand a little on the issue of ethnic minority recruitment in an Garda Síochána.
Mr Justice Morris idenfitied in his first report on the Morris Tribunal a culture of ‘us and them’ in the Gardaí. The Gardaí he investigated saw themselves as removed from society in some way. This was behind the ‘blue wall of silence’ which Justice Morris encountered at every turn, meaning that members of the force refused to discuss the wrongdoing of other members. This was epitomised by Garda Leonard who stated ‘You don’t hang your own’. In his recommendations in that first report, Justice Morris called for increased recruitment from ethnic minority groups to break down those concepts of ‘us’. He stated at para 13.124:
“If a sector of society providing one of the most important functions of a democratic society is monolithic in its makeup then that attitude is
To that end a number of essential changes were made to the recruitment policy of an Garda Síochána. Firstly, the Irish language requirements, which had prevented most from applying were removed, with the Irish language now being covered during Garda training. Secondly, citizenship requirements were reduced to a total residency of 4 of the 8 previous years.
The result has not been entirely sucessful. The Garda Annual Reports for 2007 and 2008 show that 39 trainees from non-Irish backgrounds were recruited and 34 more to the Garda reserve. In 2008 the Garda had set out in their Strategic Goals an aim of 5% of new recruits being from an ethnic minority background but achieved just 2.2%. While the necessary structural changes to the admissions policy have been made, the Sikh case referred to in Mairead’s post, points to a lack of flexibility within the force which is likely to discourage others from joining. Writing in March 2008, then Deputy Commissioner Fitzgerald, who had been in charge of the reform process, wrote ‘the rushed recruitment of newly arrived immigrants was unlikely to deliver a body of professionals that understand the nuances of policing Irish society and culture.’ To my mind, this statement does not appreciate the need for integration. The requirement of 4 years residency in the country had ensured that would not occur. No overt recognition that there may be problems of acceptance of ethnic minorities within the force is present.
Efforts to address this have focused on increasing diversity awareness throughout the force. Ethnic Liaison Officers have been trained and ethnic and cultural diversity is included as a strategic goal in the Corporate Strategy. Conferences on the topic were held in 2006 and 2007. The force has produced a Diversity Strategy document for the years 2009-2012, establishing the framework under which diversity is to be tackled and outlines that the approach is predicated on the concept of ‘diversity beyond legalism.’ The CAO of the Gardaí is to be appointed Diversity Champion, a Diversity Strategy Board is to be created, a Diversity Management Unity will have responsibility for internal issues arising and the (now) Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office will have responsibility for external diversity issues. The training to be provided to all Gardaí is outlined, as well as the evaluation of that training and a positive focus on issues of retention as well as recruitment. Of concern, perhaps, within this document is the presentation of work in this area as ‘above all, focused on following a business case for Diversity.’ As with so many other documents relating to reform within an Garda Síochána, what is entirely lacking is an ethical commitment to the work, only through which, it is argued, sustainable change can be implemented. The training of all staff is presented as a minimal requirement yet the report states that just 250 members of an Garda Síochána have, to date, undergone Diversity Training. Out of an organisation with 14,000 members this is a small proportion.
Concerns that the force is not adequately addressing problems with respect to diversity are, it appears, justified.