Gay and lesbian Irish police were banned from wearing their uniform at Dublin Pride yesterday (30 June).
The decision to ban Irish police, known as gardai, from wearing their uniform has come under criticism from chief officers and gay rights groups.
As Dublin is hosting the European Gay Police Association conference, the President Chief Supt Herman Renes said it was a ‘missed opportunity’ to increase the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender officers.
Several members of the EGPA marched in uniform at the Pride celebrations, while their Irish colleagues had to wear plain clothes.
A spokesperson for the Garda press office said officers attending Pride were off duty and as such were prohibited from wearing uniforms.
The policy contrasts with usual practice in Britain and across Europe where police officers have been wearing uniforms in such marches for much of the past decade.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan told the EGPA conference he was proud to be attending with members of his organization ‘who feel confident to be open about their sexual orientation and identity in our workplace’, the Irish Times reports.
He said he was aware that not all LGBT members felt as comfortable.
Callinan said: ‘If their reluctance flows from fear or anxiety on their part because of acts, omissions, attitudes, glances or atmosphere in the workplace – then that is a challenge for us. And it is a challenge which we cannot afford to ignore.’
The decision comes after a study found gay, lesbian and bisexual gardai said they feared coming out as it would harm their career.
Researchers from the Dublin City University found a leadership vacuum in the Irish police force An Garda Siochana.
Doctor Vera Sheridan, an author of the report, said the 29 LGB men and women they interviewed said a lack of leadership had led to some remaining closeted.
The Irish Independent reported dramatic changes within Irish society over the past 20 years have brought about changes to legislation which impacts upon institutions like the police.
Sheridan said: ‘Strong leadership is needed for change in the institutional culture of An Garda Siochana as a whole-institution response to equality in the workplace.
‘As a result, LGB gardai would not feel the need to endure half-lived, closeted lives, in the workplace, as they serve their communities.’