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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 17 June 2021

'It'll grow on you': Gardaí demand the right to wear a beard on duty

“It’s not like we want to reunite the Dubliners and start growing beards all over the place.”

Police in other jurisdictions are permitted to wear a beard on duty.
Police in other jurisdictions are permitted to wear a beard on duty.
Image: Nick Ansell/PA

RANK-AND-FILE gardaí have called on the Commissioner to change regulations to allow them to wear a beard on duty.

It’s the final day of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and having dealt with some rather more serious issues like assaults, terrorism and GSOC investigations this week, a lighter motion on the right to facial hair was proposed by Kildare rep John-Joe O’Connell.

O’Connell read from the garda code, which states sideburns must be neatly trimmed and can not extend past the lower part of the exterior ear opening.

“A moustache can be worn and kept tight and neatly trimmed. No portion will extend below the corners of the mouth or fall below a line parallel with the lower lip. Otherwise the face must be clean-shaven,” he continued.

The presence of beards on men in society is not as unusual a sight as it might have been in times gone by.

O’Connell said some members do not mind having to shave every day before going to work, but for some, it is “irritating to their skin, annoying and uncomfortable”.

Back in 2001, the association raised this issue in relation to garda whistleblower John Wilson, who was confined to indoor duties for breaching regulations by letting his facial hair grow. Wilson said at the time that he was suffering from a skin condition which was eased by growing a beard. The garda code was later changed to include an exemption from this rule for members who cannot shave for medical reasons.

“It’s a fact of life men grow hair on their faces,” O’Connell said. He asked garda delegates to support the motion: “I promise it will grow on you.”

Brendan Stokes, of Carbury station in Kildare, seconded the motion:

“It’s not like we want to reunite the Dubliners and start growing beards all over the place,” he said.

Sligo-Leitrim’s Jack Kelleher also spoke in favour of the motion.

It is a human right I think to allow us be natural. Beards can reduce skin cancer…help reduce asthma and allergies. They help you keep young looking…They reduce infections and you end up with blemish- free skin and a beard is a natural moisturiser.

“All jokes aside, I think this is an old law and should be done away with. If anyone wants to wear a tidy beard, it should be allowed. It does no harm,” he said. The motion was passed by the conference.

When asked about the motion yesterday Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said changing the rules to allow officers to grow beards was not high on her list of priorities.

Poll: Should uniformed gardaí be allowed have beards?>

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