Garda Commissioner and Minister Appeal WRC Ruling Against Gardaí in Age Discrimination Case

Garda Commissioner and Minister Appeal WRC Ruling Against Gardaí in Age Discrimination Case

The Minister for Justice and Equality and the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána are appealing a 2020 ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) that two men, Ronald Boyle and Brian Fitzpatrick, were discriminated against by An Garda Síochána when rejected for entry to the force on the basis of their ages.

The two men had sought to join An Garda Síochána 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 men brought complaints before the Equality Tribunal (the predecessor to the WRC) on the basis that the maximum age limit for entry to An Garda Síochána amounted to age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998, the national legislation that gives effect to the EU Framework Directive on equal treatment in employment.

The two men fought for 15 years to secure the WRC ruling of November 2020 in their favour, which is now under appeal by the Garda Commissioner and the Minister.  The original cases were put on hold pending a number of legal challenges through the courts which ultimately saw the Supreme Court refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’). The EU’s highest court was asked to rule on whether the WRC, as a body tasked with giving effect to EU law, had the authority to dis-apply Irish law that conflicts with existing EU law. The CJEU’s landmark 2018 ruling stated that the WRC did hold such power and cleared the way for the two men’s cases to proceed.

The cases centred on whether the Garda Commissioner could show that the upper 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 adjudicator found that the Garda Commissioner had not shown that there would be a significant number of members of Gardaí unable to perform physically demanding tasks if this upper age limit did not apply. The Garda Commissioner had also not shown that the maximum recruitment age could be justified on the basis of training requirements or the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement.

In the Labour Court appeal by the Minister and Commissioner which begins today, the Commission will argue that, based on the facts of this case, the use of an age restriction in the recruitment of Gardaí is unlawful and contrary to EU law and that, therefore, the national measure relied upon to enforce the age limit should be disapplied and the determinations of the WRC upheld.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Discrimination holds real and significant impacts for people. 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.” “Having won their case in the WRC after 15 years, Brian and Ronald now find themselves back before the Labour Court again asserting their rights under equality law against this appeal from the Garda Commissioner and the Minister. The Commission is proud to continue to assist them in this important case.”


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