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Two men refused entry to an Garda Síochána for being over 35 awarded €12,700 each

An Garda Síochána discriminated against older recruits on age grounds according to the Workplace Relations Commission

Image: Niall Carson

TWO MEN WHO were refused entry to An Garda Síochána due to age discrimination, have been awarded €12,7oo each. 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed rulings published today confirming that age restrictions enforced to stop those aged 35 and over from joining the Garda Síochána as trainees are discriminatory.

The Commission provided legal representation to both men at the centre of today’s cases to challenge this discrimination which.

Brian Fitzpatrick and Ronald Boyle had sought to join an Garda Síochána between 2005 and 2007, but were refused entry based on Garda regulations, which set the upper age limit for entry as a trainee at under 35.

Following their rejection, the men brought complaints before the Equality Tribunal on the basis that the maximum age limit for entry to the Garda Síochána amounted to age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998, which is the national legislation that gives effect to the EU Framework Directive on equal treatment in employment.

The cases centred on whether the Garda Commissioner could show that the application of an upper age limit in the regulations was justified as a genuine occupational requirement or on the basis of fulfilling a legitimate employment policy under the relevant EU and national law provisions.

The WRC adjudicators found that the age limit applied to the two men’s Garda applications, was not proportionate and was discriminatory.

The adjudicator found that the Garda Commissioner had not shown that there would be a significant number of members of Gardaí unable to perform physically demanding tasks if this upper age limit did not apply.

The Garda Commissioner had also not shown that the maximum recruitment age could be justified on the basis of training requirements or the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement.

Distress

The maximum compensation possible under the equality legislation in force at the time was awarded to each man of €12,700 for “the distress suffered as a result of this discrimination.”

 The Commission has called on Justice Minister Helen McEntee to review this age limit to bring it into step with other police forces internationally, including in the UK, and in line with the findings of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland which stated that “age diversity should be encouraged. The current maximum age limit of 35 is outdated and should be scrapped.”

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Chief Commissioner of the IHREC Sinéad Gibney said:

“Discrimination holds real and significant impacts for people. These two men were arbitrarily denied any prospect of providing service to the State as members of the Garda Síochána due to their age, and their career aspirations subsequently dashed. “I pay credit to the determination of Brian and Ronald in persevering with their cases despite such a long delay to secure today’s decisions. We hope that their work to secure justice will pave the way in ensuring that others do not suffer this kind of age discrimination when seeking to join the Garda Síochána.”

Responding to the ruling in his case Ronald Boyle told The Journal the discrimination he faced was “based not on my ability, but solely and exclusively on my age.”

“I call on Justice Minister Helen McEntee to bring an end to this ongoing prejudice in the same way previous discriminatory regulations, such as height and eyesight requirements have been abolished and bring An Garda Síochána into line with neighbouring police forces where my fellow Irish citizens do not suffer such discrimination.”

A spokeswoman for An Garda Síochána said it will review today’s ruling and will discuss it with the Department of Justice. 

“In line with recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing an expert group, which is independently chaired, has been established to review learning and development in An Garda Síochána. A sub-group of this group will be looking at entry paths into An Garda Síochána including entry requirements,” said the spokeswoman. 

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