Garda headquarters has begun rolling out a “contemporary” new uniform for all frontline members, its third uniform change in its 100 year history.
The new outfits, which resemble modern police uniforms seen in mainland Europe, are a significant departure from the traditional garda uniform.
The Garda tunic has been replaced by a soft shell jacket designed to be worn over a blue polo shirt. Members will also be provided with thermal wear and “wicking t-shirts”.
For the first time the official garda crest will appear on the uniforms. Until now it has only appeared on the Garda hat. This demonstrates "the respect held by An Garda Síochána for this unique symbol as we enter the 2nd century of policing in Ireland," the Garda said in a statement.
Neck-ties will no longer form part of the day-to-day uniform but will be retained for formal occasions. The existing Garda hat will be retained “as a unique and distinctive element of the Garda uniform”.
The new uniform will incorporate recent changes to Garda policy which permit the wearing of headwear for religious and cultural reasons and beliefs including turban, kufi, topi, kippah or hijab.
The rollout coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Garda this year. “This is only the 3rd time in that century that a formal upgrade of the Garda uniform has taken place,” it said.
Gardaí, sergeants and inspectors will receive new uniforms while the uniforms of those of superintendent rank or above will remain the same.
The new uniform is markedly different from the first garda uniform introduced in 1922 which included a cape and a “night helmet” similar to that used by English constabularies.
The frontline uniform underwent another change in 1987 when the dark blue colour was replaced by a lighter shade and the silver buttons changed to gold.
The new uniforms are to be delivered to over 13,000 garda, sergeants and inspectors, across 560 stations, over the next several weeks.
However it will not be worn for daily duties until an formal "go-live" date is announced by Commissioner Drew Harris. This is expected to happen before the end of March.
“The new uniform is contemporary, and incorporates elements such as comfort, durability, protection and functionality,” the Garda said.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) welcomed the move on Monday. "While our members have yet to receive delivery of the new uniforms, the feedback from the divisions where it has been piloted has been positive," President Frank Thornton said.
“GRA members have for years expressed dissatisfaction with both the quality and appearance of the existing uniform. What has been unveiled today represents progress given that members will be wearing more comfortable, practical garments made from modern fabrics.
“While opinions on the appearance and the style of the uniform vary, ultimately it is when members wear the uniform that they will be able to make a more informed judgment.”
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland recommended the uniform be replaced in 2018. In the same year an internal cultural audit found there was a desire among frontline members for a new uniform
A collaborative approach was taking to designing a replacement which included a pilot project involving 200 gardaí from Tallaght, Henry Street and Bunclody.
In a message to gardaí on Monday, Mr Harris said the new uniform "is a visual representation of a new era in policing.
“It is my hope that in receiving this new uniform, it will further enhance your sense of pride in being a member of An Garda Síochána as you go about your day-to-day duties.
“Projecting a professional appearance and wearing the uniform of An Garda Síochána with the deep respect it deserves are important because they underscore our overarching mission: Keeping people safe.”