Just one in 240 gardaí from a minority background

Lack of diversity on force a ‘time bomb’, claims Garda Representative Association

Ethnic minorities form just 0.4 per cent of An Gardaí Síochána, compared to 6 per cent of UK police forces.

The lack of racial diversity in the force is “a ticking time bomb” and a failure to correct it “may mean an explosion in our communities sooner than we might have ever imagined,” according to the organisation with represents 12,000 Garda rank and file.

Garda Representative Association spokesman John O'Keeffe said an increase in minority recruitment is necessary. This must happen not just to better reflect the Irish population, but also to prevent minority communities from becoming marginalised and turning to extremism.

“If ethnic minorities are marginalised or disenfranchised, history shows us they will retreat. And extremists will take over, leading to the type of social chaos we have seen in many cities across Europe in recent times.”


The Irish population is made up of 82.2 per cent “white Irish” with the remainder coming from various ethnic minorities.

This means almost one in five gardaí should be outside the white Irish category for the force to be representative. In reality one in every 240 gardaí, or 0.4 percent is non-white Irish.

Currently, just 63 gardaí and 37 reserve gardaí are from ethnic backgrounds. The two non-Irish nationalities with the highest Garda representation are Chinese (20) and Polish (12).

In terms of applicants to An Garda Síochána, the level of applicants from ethnic minority groups has been lower than 3 per cent in recent years; a steep decline over the last decade.

By comparison, in the UK 6 per cent of all police officers are categorised as BME (Black, Minority, Ethnic).

In 2016, 11 per cent of new UK officers were BME, the highest proportion on record.

Garda management has committed to increasing recruitment from ethnic communities for years, but with little success.

A Garda spokesman said it does not comment on statements from third parties but noted a speech by Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin earlier this month announcing the recruitment of 800 gardaí for 2019. This is part of a Government commitment to increase the size of the force to 15,000 by 2021.

“I would like to encourage people from across the social and cultural spectrum, who want to provide a safe and secure society for everyone, to consider joining An Garda Síochána,” said the commissioner.

“An Garda Síochána serves all of the community and would encourage everyone, and in particular, women, and those from diverse groups, to consider a career in policing,” he added. “We recognise the importance of recruiting people from a wide cross section of the community so that we are representative of the increasingly diverse society we serve.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times