A SIKH man training to become a Garda Reservist was told to remove his turban by a high-ranking garda if he wanted to commence station duty, Metro Eireann has learned.
The episode has led to a meeting between representatives of the Sikh community and An Garda Síochána.
A source from the Sikh community explained: “He was selected for training as a Garda Reservist – he passed all the exams and took the training, and now at the end of the training they told him he has to put on a cap rather than the turban.
“This person is working as an IT professional but he wanted to work as a volunteer in the Garda Reserve to give some service back to the community.”
The turban is a garment worn on the head by all practising Sikh men, for whom it is not an optional element of their religion (Sikh women can choose whether or not to wear the turban).
Turbans are worn by Sikh police officers in many other parts of the world. Police forces in the UK and Canada, for example, have specially-adapted turbans which incorporate their organisation’s insignia (see example above).
In London in particular, the Metropolitan Police has been facilitating Sikh officers to wear turbans since the early 1970s.
“It will be an interesting topic to raise because at the first step of integration of the communities they [gardai] are failing,” said the source.
The news comes at an embarrassing time for An Garda Síochána, which is due to release its new booklet – Your Police Service in Intercultural Ireland – next week.
The booklet will be launched at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park on Monday 23 July by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.
Under new rules introduced in 2005, applicants to An Garda Síochána must prove they are competent in two languages, at least one of which must be English or Irish. The rule alteration therefore removed the requirement for a qualification in Irish, a move aimed at encouraging more ethnic minorities to join the force.
At press time, a Garda spokesperson was unable to confirm whether or not the force have begun developing a turban to be worn by potential Sikh members.