271. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if an exemption from the second language requirement can be provided to Garda applicants who are dyslexic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26420/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware competitions for recruitment to An Garda Síochána are governed by An Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 2013. Under these Regulations, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for recruitment to An Garda Síochána, and I, as Minister have no direct role in the matter.
The Regulations provide that all applicants must have a proven proficiency in two languages; one of which must be Irish or English. This requirement applies without discrimination to all candidates. Such competency may be proven by achieving the relevant grades in an Irish Leaving Certificate or for English or Irish through such assessments as set out by the Public Appointments Service. While two languages are required, applicants who do not possess proficiency in Irish but have a second language will be deemed eligible under the Regulations.
The Public Appointments Service (PAS), on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, manages the initial recruitment stages for selection of Garda Trainees and I, as Minister, have no direct involvement in the matter. I have, however, been informed that PAS, which conducts tests as part of the competitive selection process, carefully considers all requests for reasonable accommodations. In considering such requests, PAS is conscious of the rights of people with disabilities and of the obligations on it to observe those rights and to act in accordance with the provisions of the relevant equality legislation.
As a public body established under the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act, 2004, PAS is also obliged under section 34(1)(b) of that Act to ensure that “standards of probity, merit, equity and fairness” apply to all of its recruitment and selection work. These binding standards are set out in the Code of Practice for Appointment to Positions where the Garda Commissioner has Statutory Responsibility, as published by the Commission for Public Service Appointments.
I am further advised that in considering requests for reasonable accommodations, PAS has a fundamental duty to ensure it is being fair to all candidates who have entered a particular competition and that the key principle of appointment on merit is being observed. To assist PAS in considering a request for accommodations in a fair and balanced way, its policy is to ask candidates to indicate on their application if they require special accommodations and to submit evidence in support of their request. PAS will consider letters or reports from relevant professionals which clearly indicate the nature of the disability and the type of accommodation(s) that may be relevant to the person. PAS has given additional time to people with dyslexia where they have supporting evidence. However, having made reasonable accommodations, candidates must reach the required standard in order to be considered for further progression in a competition.
In December 2018 the Government endorsed the key recommendations contained within the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and published ‘A Policing Service for the Future’ – the implementation plan for the Commission’s report, this includes the recommendations in relation to the reform of recruitment into An Garda Síochána in order to increase the diversity of the organisation.
The Deputy will agree that it is vital that the Commissioner continues to recruit candidates with the appropriate qualifications to An Garda Síochána, and that best practice continues to be followed with regard to any such recruitment. I welcome and support the Commissioner’s commitment to increasing the diversity of the members and staff of An Garda Síochána to reflect the twenty first century Ireland it serves. This will ensure that An Garda Síochána maintains its strong bond with the diverse communities it serves. The recommendations of the Commission will take time to implement, and any proposal to amend the Recruitment and Admission regulations, including the language requirement will require consideration and consultation with a number of interested parties.