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'I could talk for Ireland': Polish and Chinese blazing a trail for non-Irish gardaí

Figures released to TheJournal.ie show there are more than 100 non-Irish members of An Garda Síochána and the Garda Reserve.

image2 Garda Nan Hu

ACROSS THE COUNTRY there are just under 13,000 gardaí working to keep Ireland safe.

While most of these are Irish-born, a growing contingent of law-enforcement officials from other jurisdictions are taking up roles in An Garda Síochána.

Figures released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act show that since November 2006 there have been 57 non-Irish nationals recruited who are now serving as members of An Garda Síochána or as garda trainees and 54 non-Irish nationals recruited as members of the Garda Reserve.

Since the launch of the Garda Diversity Strategy back in 2009, the number of non-Irish gardaí has increased from 46, while the number in the Garda Reserves has increased from 32.

To find out a bit more about things on the ground for Ireland’s non-Irish gardaí, TheJournal.ie spoke to Garda Emilia Gilroy and Garda Nan Hu about their experiences.

‘I could talk for Ireland’ 

Garda Nan Hu arrived in Ireland 17 years ago and has been a guard since 2007, currently attached to the Bridewell Garda Station in Dublin.

After finishing his studies in DIT, Nan Hu went in search of work.

An Garda Síochána proved to be a handy option, as it had just begun recruiting foreign nationals and met the criteria needed for a working visa application.

And has Hu found himself treated differently because he is Chinese?


“At the start it was kind of hard,” he says, “I was one of the first group that got in. People are not used to seeing foreign faces in the guards and when they actually come across you they’re like, ‘oh look, a Chinese guard’.”


“Also, if I go out with an Irish garda, people kind of would talk to the Irish person. They think, ‘oh he must be new’, and they talk to the more senior person.

Even though I am actually a garda and with the garda reserve and it’s me calling the shots.

Despite this, Hu says that for most normal people he’s “a guard, a person in a uniform”.

One of the most recent overseas recruits into the guards is Emilia Gilroy who graduated from Templemore last September.

Source: GardaPressOffice/YouTube

Originally from Poland, she came to Ireland in 2001 and is now stationed at Tallaght Garda Station in south Dublin.

“I always wanted to join the police force,” she told TheJournal.ie. 

When I came here I was actually studying in Poland. I was studying politics. That was the way that I was going to go to join the police force. I ended up coming to Ireland as it happened and then stayed.

For Gilroy signing up wasn’t a straightforward process.

When she first came here Poland wasn’t a part of the European Union, by the time of its accession in 2004 Gilroy had just started a young family, something that was followed shortly after by the public service recruitment embargo.

When this was lifted in 2014, Gilroy was 34 years old (the cut off for recruits age is 35).

“I literally got in at the very last second for myself,” she said.

I always said ‘what’s meant for you won’t pass you by’ but this really did prove that for me.

For Gilroy, she has never had anyone treat her differently because she’s Polish.

I actually have not one negative thing to say about it. I’ve never had someone say to me, ‘I’d like to talk to someone from Ireland’.

Something that stands out for Gilroy about working for the gardaí is how community-focused it is – something that contrasts with the way things are done in Poland.

“We would be an armed police force back in Poland, and I would prefer the Irish style,” she said.

I could talk for Ireland as you can probably tell. The guards being so hand- on with the community. You can always stop an Irish guard and have a chat about anything.

Where do Ireland’s non-Irish gardaí come from?

The two non-Irish nationalities with the most gardaí are Chinese, of whom there are 20 gardaí in Ireland, and Polish, who have 12 gardaí.

Going by population trends, it makes sense that Polish gardaí would make up a larger number of non-Irish gardaí as they’re the largest immigrant group – with a population of 122,585 at the time of the 2011 census.

While they may account for the most non-Irish gardaí, the Chinese make up a much smaller immigrant group (around 11,000), and it has been noted in previous censuses that many of these are here to study. 

It is also noteworthy that there are only 5 British citizens (four English and one Welsh) currently employed as gardaí, considering there are around 115,000 currently resident in Ireland.

Besides Polish, Chinese and British gardaí, here is a breakdown of the rest of the non-Irish gardaí:

  • American – 7
  • Romanian – 4
  • German – 2

The following nationalities also each have one serving gardaí: South African, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Lithuanian and Bosnian.

The vast majority of non-Irish gardaí currently work in the capital.

Out of the 57, just eight work outside of Dublin – with three in Waterford, three in Cork City and two in Limerick.

Recruitment drive 

Last year, the recruitment campaign launched by An Garda Síochána placed a focus on recruiting more women and non-Irish nationals into the force.

As part of this, videos of garda members and garda reserves from minority communities were produced and shown to potential recruits, with the videos showing the benefits of a career in policing.

13/6/2016. The Policing Authority Meetings Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Source: RollingNews.ie

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said: “When I joined An Garda Síochána in 1981, I was one of a tiny minority of women. Now, over a quarter of Gardaí are women.

I hope that trend continues, just as I hope we get lots of applications from every strand of Irish society. Why? Because we are of the community and should reflect the changes in our communities.

Read: Petrol station robbers confronted and tackled by off-duty gardaí

Also: FactCheck: Is Sinn Féin right about how many gardaí Dublin’s inner city has lost?

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