RAVINDER Singh Oberoi is the first practising Sikh to join the An-Garda Síochána, the national police force of Ireland, as a member of its volunteer section earlier this month.
The IT professional said it was a "very happy end to a long journey" after his induction on January 19, 2021 following the reversal of a decision over his turban dating back to 2007.
Upon completion of his training to join the force in 14 years ago, Mr Oberoi was told that he would be prohibited from wearing his turban, an important and often non-negotiable part of Sikh religious observance.
He contested the decision in a case before the Equality Tribunal and the High Court, which ruled that the Garda Reservists were, in the eyes of the law, technically volunteers and not employees.
Looking back at the episode, Oberoi said the verdict was "very disappointing" and "went against the values and ethics that an Garda Síochána promote".
In a remarkable volte-face, An Garda Síochána said in 2019 that: "In order to encourage candidates from minority communities, An Garda Síochána will consider alterations to the Garda uniform to take account of religious and ethnic requirements subject to operational, and health and safety obligations.
"For example, An Garda Síochána is to allow the wearing of the turban for members of the Sikh community and the hijab for members of the Muslim community. An Garda Síochána has identified such matters as a major barrier to some people considering becoming a Garda member."
Following this about turn in 2019, Singh took part in a refresher course in summer 2020 and carried out operational training on the beat in Dublin last autumn.
"Garda members regularly face dangerous, uncertain situations in order to assist and protect the public."
Garda Commissioner Harris
R/Gda Oberoi, DMR South Central
R/Gda Lynch, Tipperary
R/Gda Sheehan, Cork City
R/Gda Kelledy, Louth pic.twitter.com/GKrvnnJN6q
— Garda Info (@gardainfo) January 19, 2021
When he was finally inducted this month amid vast Garda shortages, Oberoi told The Irish Times: "After 14 years, it was a proud moment as a Sikh man to be able to wear a turban as part of the uniform."
"It's a great honour to be able to call this country my home and now to be accepted in the attire I wear."
Oberoi received congratulations from the Indian Embassy in Ireland on his accomplishment which has "paved the way for more multicultural representation in the Garda force", they said.
The Indian Irish national was one of 69 Garda reserves to have completed training for front-line policing to help to plug the gap left by those off duty due the coronavirus.
Commenting on the inductions, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: "Crime has continued during the pandemic, and the dedication and professionalism of Gardaí has allowed us to maintain our operational pace over the past ten months. At all times, Gardaí across the country have continued to focus on preventing and detecting criminality.
"Garda members regularly face dangerous, uncertain situations in order to assist and protect the public. It takes true mettle to come forward at a critical period in the country’s fight against this virus and be prepared to give it all to protecting the public from the frontline.
"The 69 Garda reserves have willingly committed their time to support the ongoing efforts to keep people safe and will form an integral part of our policing effort moving forward."