The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed rulings published yesterday (4 November) confirming that age restrictions enforced to stop those aged 35 and over from joining the Garda Síochána as trainees are discriminatory.
IHREC said the decisions by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in favour of Brian Fitzpatrick and Ronald Boyle had taken almost 15 years to secure. The body provided legal representation to both men.
The cases were put on hold pending the resolution of judicial review proceedings in the superior courts, and ultimately saw the Supreme Court refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The EU’s highest court ruled in 2018 that the WRC had the authority to disapply Irish law that conflicts with existing EU law, clearing the way for the cases to go ahead.
The two men had sought to join the Garda Síochána between 2005 and 2007, but were refused entry based on the Garda Síochána (Admission and Appointments) Regulations 1988, which set the upper age limit for entry as a trainee at under 35.
The men then brought complaints before the WRC’s predecessor, the Equality Tribunal, on the basis that the maximum age limit amounted to age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998.
The cases centred on whether the Garda Commissioner could show that the application of an upper age limit in the regulations was justified as a genuine occupational requirement or a legitimate employment policy.
The WRC ruled that the age limit was not proportionate and was discriminatory.
The maximum compensation possible under the equality legislation in force at the time – €12,700 – was awarded to each man for “the distress suffered as a result of this discrimination”.
In the wake of the ruling, IHREC has called on the Minister for Justice to review the age limit to bring it into line with other police forces internationally.
“The current maximum age limit of 35 is outdated and should be scrapped,” the human rights body said.