Gardaí need to prioritise policing communities rather than self-expression through tattoos, according to Newstalk Breakfast Host Shane Coleman.
This comes after news An Garda Síochána sent three trainees home because their tattoos did not comply with standard rules.
Official rules state “body art” on the face or visible above the collar are now allowed in An Garda Síochána.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said yesterday his “gut view” is that rules regarding tattoos should be “relaxed” in the service.
Shane Coleman said he “isn’t so sure” about Mr Harris’ view, as Gardaí need to consider their public role.
“Being a Garda is not about self-expression,” he said. “It's about being part of a community and policing our community.”
'It's about public confidence'
Shane acknowledged tattoos are more acceptable now – but prospective Gardaí need to consider “communal needs” before getting a tattoo that goes against rules and regulation.
“It's about reinforcing a sense of trust, public confidence and protection,” he said.
“There are members of the public still, particularly if you're in the older demographic, who are not particularly comfortable about tattoos.”
"Discreet” tattoos are acceptable, but face tattoos or tattoos visible above the neck would be a problem for members of the public – and therefore it’s a problem for Gardaí.
“We need to be careful in terms of trying to get down with the kids and being cool and all that, that we don't undermine [Gardaí’s] authority,” Shane said.
Retention and recruitment
Filling in for Ciara Kelly, Claire Brock said “offensive tattoos” should definitely be banned – but questioned whether “having a tattoo affects a Garda’s ability to do the job”.
“If you’re in your 20s before you decide to join the Guards, and you get a face tattoo, does that just preclude you?” she said.
Claire said tattoos are not the issues An Garda Síochána should be worried about.
“We're so well aware of it, but this recruitment and retention crisis... Simon Harris is not wrong with saying this [tattoos are] not a priority concern,” she said.
“We’ve heard from the Garda Representative Association, describing this as actually an ultra-conservative view of what is increasingly the norm.”
One texter agreed with Claire that retention is the real issue facing the Gardaí.
“I prefer to see a Guard with a tattoo than not see a Guard at all,” they said.