Cultural and language difficulties can arise between gardaí and ethnic communities
Gardaí are expressing concern over a lack of racial diversity within the force.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has warned that it is crucial that all communities around the country are represented.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, GRA spokesperson John O’Keefe said CSO statistics show that 17.5% of the Irish population falls outside the ‘White Irish’ category.
“On the basis of that, almost one-in-five members of the force should be outside the 'White Irish' category,” he said.
“It won’t come as a surprise to anybody to know that is not the case.
“But just to put a point on how small it is, currently there are 63 gardaí [...] who would fall within that category.
“There are only five British citizens and yet there are 115,000 or so currently resident within Ireland.”
He said cultural and language difficulties can arise between gardaí and ethnic communities - adding that there are currently no Irish Travellers represented in the force.
“What this is all going back down to is community policing,” he said.
“It is all optical - and it is important that it is optical.
“People need to see that these people are representing other communities [...] it is about reflecting our society.”
The 2015 Garda Annual Report said work to highlight barriers to equality regarding recruitment, retention and promotion within the force was ongoing – however Mr O’Keefe warned it “does not seem to be going anywhere” adding “we are not representing the people we seek to serve.”
“That has to change but we are not so simplistic that we are saying this is a one shot solution,” he said.
“Nor are we calling for positive discrimination - we are not saying that.
“Part of this is that we have to go into these communities and we have to say to them, you are our community.”
Mr O’Keefe also warned that the force remains under-staffed despite the fact that recruitment is underway once again.
He said the Scottish police force is comprised of 17,252 officers serving a population of 5.3 million people while, as of today, there are 13,150 gardaí in Ireland - serving a population of approximately 4.7 million.
He said "those figures really need to go up” adding that the Irish force should be made up of around 16,000 officers.
Retirements are continuing to overtake recruitment – particularly in rural areas.
You can listen back to the full conversation on The Pat Kenny Show here: