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Commissioner’s own goal on LGB Gardai in uniform?

June 29th, 2012 · 11 Comments · Equality, Homophobia, LGBT

The European Gay Police Association are in Dublin this week holding their 6th  conference.  It is hosted by G Force, the Garda Gay Lesbian and Bisexual employee resource group.

There are over 130 delegates from throughout Europe attending.  They’ve visited Áras and Uachtaráin and been given a reception by President Higgins.  The Minister for Justice and Law Reform Alan Shatter opened the conference and gave a speech of welcome and recognition , including a committment to introduce legislation providing rights for children of civil partners.  The Garda Commissioner made an address of welcome  also.

Academics from DCU have published very interesting research on the experiences of LGB gardai.

The conference is examining concerns of lgb police officers and also policing issues regarding lgb community and people.

All this is excellent.  The Gardai have previously been recognised for their commitment and progress as an employer

However word is about for the past few days that on Saturday at the Dublin Pride march the only delegates not marching in uniform will be from An Garda Siochana.  The Garda Commissioner has opposed it. Many Foreign officers will be proudly marching in full uniform (despite it is said the opposition of the Commissioner).

It is now quite normal in pride celebrations for LGBT police officers to march in uniform – indeed non LGBT officers and Chief Constables have also marched in many UK Pride marches as a message of solidarity to the communities they police.  The EPGA have information on their website on the history of the matter.

I’ve asked the Garda Press Office for comment.  Given the huge good will between the LGBT community and the Garda Siochana which has been built up ofver the last decade and the support that the Garda management have given to lgb officers, the decision to stop LGB Gardai marching in uniform is a massive own goal.  There is still time for Commissioner Callinan to change his mind.   If these Gardai can wear their uniforms in Áras an Uachtaráin why can’t they wear them walking down O’Connell Street?

In his speech at the conference yesterday Commissioner Callinan said

It is important therefore that we recognise that there is a link between our internal culture and treatment of each other in the work place and the quality and nature of the service we provide to the community. Our internal values can transfer to and impact on the way we interact externally.

Quite.

Update:

The Garda Press Office replied

 

Members of An Garda Síochána are generally only permitted to wear uniform while on duty.

However, in recognition of the significance of the hosting of the European Gay Police Association conference in Dublin for the first time, members attending the conference and a reception at Aras an Uachtarain to mark the occasion are doing so in uniform.

So that’s no march then. Don’t expect to see Gardai ever march in uniform in St Patricks Day Parades in NY any more either eh? Ah there’s that pig again flying high.

Update 2:

Roisin Ingle covers this story in today’s Irish Times.

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11 Comments so far

  • Adam Long

    The Gardai have made great strides in recent years and that makes this decision all the more confusing and disappointing.

    Showing support for the LGBT community does not in any way drag the Gardai into the political domain or compromise their neutrality. They have serving LGBT members and they also serve a community that traditionally has not felt full confidence in the police, not just here in Ireland but in other countries also. Indeed, it was a police raid of a gay bar in New York back in 1969 that gave birth to the modern LGBT rights movement.

    It is in such a context then that the Gardai must continue building on their good work regarding LGBT issues (internally and externally) and address the problems that still exist. As regards the uniform issue, they are clearly out of step with the European norm and the fact that their colleagues from other police forces will quite rightly be marching in uniform will only make this policy error from the Garda authorities even more obvious and pronounced. They need to reconsider this, and certainly change their thinking in time for next year’s Pride.

  • Joe835

    I don’t see the value of someone’s sexuality being a defining characteristic in their job i.e. “I’m not just a Garda, I’m a gay Garda”.

    It seems like the other side of the coin that says someone may be discriminated against in a job because of their sexuality.

    No more than a GAA player who is a Garda shouldn’t be allowed attend a GAA event in uniform or a Garda shouldn’t attend something like the Eucharistic congress in uniform, a gay Garda shouldn’t attend any type of parade – even a Paddy’s Day parade – in uniform.

    The uniform represents the Gardai and the Gardai should be seen to represent all of the community. I wish Pride all the best but marking people out as “gay Gardai” rather that just “Gardai” is a wrong step – gay people have every right to serve and sexuality shouldn’t come into it. Ever.

  • tipster

    Maybe if the Commissioner asked G-Force to represent An Garda Síochána at the next St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, he could sort out two problems in one move…

    Nah, maybe not.

  • Adam Long

    Exactly Tipster. Why does the Commissioner believe it is acceptable for Gardai to march in their uniforms in the anti-gay Patrick’s Day Parade in New York and not the inclusive PRIDE parade in Dublin?

    And furthermore, does he believe that the majority of police services in the rest of Europe who allow their LGBT members to proudly march in uniform, have less respect for that uniform than he does?

    Not only has the Garda Commissioner let down his own LGBT members, but he has also sent a less that positive message to the wider gay community here. And if he insists on continuing with what at best could be described as a misguided policy, then a strong case exists for political intervention to ensure Gay Gardai and gay issues more generally are treated with the respect they deserve from Martin Callanan.

  • tipster

    David Norris, order of business in the Seanad, Tuesday 3 July 2012:

    “I attended the opening at Dublin Castle and listened to the addresses given by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner. I spoke at the dinner hosted by the European Gay Police Association, a very important meeting attended by some 300 members of police forces from 26 countries spanning three continents. When members of this group visited Áras an Uachtaráin, an attempt was made by the Garda Commissioner to prevent the gardaí involved from wearing their uniforms. This was only overcome after a second meeting involving the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. That is very strange.

    “At the conference we were told that one of the problems was the way in which the grapevine was used by members of the Garda. The Commissioner succeeded in his efforts to prevent Irish officers from wearing their uniforms at the parade on the basis that they would be off duty. However, being off duty is no impediment to the wearing of uniforms by gardaí participating in the homophobic event that is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York. Likewise, no objections were raised when off-duty gardaí escorting the remains of St. Thérèse of Lisieux wore their uniforms. When it is a gay issue, however, gardaí, alone among the police force representatives of 26 countries, are apparently not allowed to wear their uniform. These gardaí are facing discrimination in their own country.

    “Will the Leader confirm whether, as I understand it, the Garda Commissioner also attempted to prevent the foreign representatives from wearing their uniforms in the parade? Second, in the light of the grapevine situation, which is highlighted by a brilliant academic paper by two women from DCU, is it the case that a verbal message was sent by the Commissioner’s office to all assistant commissioners advising them not to attend the conference and, moreover, to advise their chief superintendents and superintendents that they would be better employed in their own divisions and districts? It is a fact that no assistant commissioners attended the conference, nor any operational chief superintendents or superintendents. These are very serious questions and I ask that they be answered factually and on the record of this House rather than sub rosa.”

  • Brian Lenehan

    I’m with Joe835 on this one. Gardai undertake to carry out their job “without fear, favour, malace or ill-will”. Whatever their backround or belief, when in uniform they are Gardai and nothing else. They are not black or white, straight or gay, left or right, male or female, Catholic, Protestant or Shi’ite. They are only “Gardai”. This ensures that they are representitive of all of society at all times, and should be expected to deal with any scenario that they may encounter with the same degree of professionalism, without positive or negative bias.

    The Commissioner is being consistant in his stance in this regard.

    For too long, whenever there was a case of rape reported, the case would inevitably fall to the female garda on duty. Those days are gone. Isn’t it much better than, for example, a case of assault of an LGBT being passed over to be dealt with whenever the “LGBT Garda” comes on-duty?

    Gardai cannot identify themselves in uniform as anything but Gardai, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  • Adam

    @Brian Lenehan

    “The Commissioner is being consistant in his stance in this regard.”

    Where is the consistancy in allowing uniformed Gardai march in a St Patricks Day Parade in New York, or while escorting the corpse of a religious figure around Ireland, but refusing to to so when it involves a Gay Pride Parade? (In fact, quite apart from the Gay Pride issue, there are serious questions to be asked of a Garda leadership that allows uniformed members participate in a Patricks Day Parade that continues to exclude LGBT people and is openly homophobic.)

    Allowing uniformed gay Gardai march in a Pride Parade in no way compromises the independence or professionalism of the force. It simply acknowledges and signals support in a very public way to those members who have had the courage and bravery to be open about their sexuality in a traditionally conservative organisation, and in turn, sends a much needed positive message to the wider LGBT community that the Gardai respects and embraces diversity. The decision of the Garda Commissioner to ban the uniform from the Parade has had the opposite effect unfortunately.

    And while it might be true in an ideal world free from prejudice and discrimination to say that differences need not be acknowledged etc etc, that is far from the reality and it is empowering to see minority groups openly represented in state organisations such as the Gardai. That is how all the other European police forces obviously felt when they quite correctly allowed their members march in uniform.

    Contrary to what you claim, allowing such a display has no negative effects. There is little danger of heterosexual members of the public having less confidence in the Gardai or feeling that they will suddenly get a less than professional service because gay Gardai are allowed to take part in Pride in uniform -an experience that was all too common for LGBT people in the not too distant past.
    Indeed there is still a need for the Gardai to build trust and confidence in our LGBT community and in other minority communities.

    This controversy involving the Garda Commisisoner has done nothing to further that important work.

  • Adam

    Just to add – there is a need to have Garda Liaison Officers in place to interact with communities that have particular safety and policing needs and who are victims of crime on the basis of their sexuality, race etc. These officers need not necessarily be from those minority groups (although their personal experiences and expertise would be assets).

    Having such a liasion service in place, as the Gardai now have, is only in keeping with best international policing practice and again, in no way compromises the requirement of the Gardai to provide a fair, impartial and professional service.

  • tipster

    I went looking on the GLEN website this evening to see if I could find the statement they issued in support of gay gardaí and the difficulties they experienced that David Norris raised. Silly me. GLEN hasn’t said anything.

  • karl

    “Why does the Commissioner believe it is acceptable for Gardai to march in their uniforms in the anti-gay Patrick’s Day Parade in New York and not the inclusive PRIDE parade in Dublin?”

    Because in New York they are marching as Gardai only. Nothing to do with sexuality, politics, religion, etc.

    Gardai are not prohibited from identifying themselves as Gardai, they are however forbidden from identifying themselves as being a certain religion, having political opinions or opinions on sexuality.

    Put another way, would we salute a Garda wearing his or her uniform in an anti-gay march???

    Also, I think most will find New York is not within the Republic of Ireland so the Commissioner has no jurisdiction over what people do or not do there.

  • Adam

    @Karl

    Being gay is not a ‘political opinion’ – It is a status and characteristic in the same way that being female or a member of an ethnic group is for example. LGBT Gardai marching behind a marriage equality banner could be seen as inappropriate political comment but certainly not as an open and proud gay Garda. In fact, Garda leaders should have been proactively supporting Gardai in uniform participating in the gay Pride Parade as a way of demonstrating their support and commitment to the policing concerns to our community. Instead, the disgraceful decision of the Commissioner to intervene in such an obstinate way to block.the wearing of the uniform conveyed a distinct lack of support for both LGBT members of the Gardai and the wider gay community.

    And it is an utterly false comparison to compare Gardai participating in a gay Pride parade to a gay hate one. As a public service employer, Gardai are not to adopt a neutral stan ce regarding being gay supportive and homophobic. We have robust anti-discrimination.laws in this country, which include sexual orientation and it is especially incumbant .on organs of the State, such as An Garda Siochana, to honour and respect that. And in fact, through the provision of Garda Liasion Officers to the gay community (which came under serious threat earlier this year and were only retained after the gay community mobilised effectively against the axing of a much needed service) this necessity is already acknowledged somewhat in the force.

    Furthermore, the Gardai here showed themselves to be woefully out of touch with best European policing practice regarding this issue (even police forces from much less LGBT friendly countries allowed their gay members march in uniform). Are all those countries wrong and the gay unfriendly approach of the Garda Commissioner right?? Hardly.

    And finally, it doesn’t matter where Gardai march. If they do so in uniform, they are representing the force. So again – why does the Garda leadership approve of them doing so if it involves a (homophobic) parade in New York city or the dead body of a religious figure around Ireland but veto the idea when it comes to the gay community.

    It’s highly welcome that David Norris has now put these issues in the public sphere. Perhaps the Garda Commissioner would give those of us in the gay community the courtasy of addressing that and the other troubling concerns that have arisen out of his serious mishandling of thismatter, which impacts on wider Garda-LGBT community relations. This cannot be allowed happen again.

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