An appeal in the Labour Court against a decision in favour of two men who were rejected by an Garda Síochána (AGS) on the basis of their age began yesterday (27 June).
The Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner are appealing a decision made by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in November 2020.
The WRC had decided that the maximum age limit for entry to AGS amounted to age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998.
Legal challenges delayed decision
The case had been taken by Ronald Boyle and Brian Fitzpatrick, who had sought to join the force between 2005 and 2007, when they were aged 48 and 37 respectively.
Both men were refused entry based on garda regulations, which set the upper age limit for entry as a trainee at 35.
Both brought complaints before the Equality Tribunal (the predecessor to the WRC) on the basis that the maximum age limit amounted to age discrimination under the 1998 act, which gives effect to an EU directive on equal treatment in employment.
Legal challenges subsequently put the original case on hold, until the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in 2018 that the WRC had the legal authority disapply Irish law that conflicted with existing EU law.
The cases centred on whether the Garda Commissioner could show that the age limit was justified as a genuine occupational requirement, or on the basis of fulfilling a legitimate employment policy, under the relevant EU and national law provisions.
In 2020, the WRC adjudicator found that an upper age limit of 35 was not proportionate, and was discriminatory.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), which is assisting the two men, said it would argue that the use of an age restriction in the recruitment of gardaí was “unlawful and contrary to EU law”, and that the WRC determination should be upheld.
“These two men were arbitrarily denied any prospect of providing service to the State as members of an Garda Síochána due to their age, and their career aspirations subsequently dashed,” said Sinéad Gibney (IHREC chief commissioner).