Northern Ireland

Gardai to raise recruitment age limit to 50

Current age limit 35

Gardaí are to raise their recruitment age limit to 50 (Niall Carson/PA)

An Garda Síochána is set to raise the upper limit for new recruits to 50.

The current age limit is 35, while new candidates must be 18.

The move comes after a legal challenge by two men who claimed they were the victims of age discrimination as they were restricted from signing up after the age of 35.

The gardaí is experiencing a shortage of personnel and the force, which currently has around 14,000 members, failed to meet a workforce target of 15,000 officers by 2021.

In the past garda Commissioner Drew Harris has claimed the lower age limit was necessary to ensure officers are physically competent.

Other police forces already have a more flexible approach to recruitment, including he PSNI, which allows people to join up to the age of 57.

In contrast, Police Scotland currently has not upper limit at all.

Brendan O’Connor, president of the Garda Representatives Association (GRA), said while there is no objection to the upper limit, it will not fix staff shortages.

“We don’t believe there’s a pool of people in that age group who would be in a position financially, or with family commitments, to take that option,” he told the BBC.

“Of course, anyone who meets the criteria and can do the job will be welcome, but we don’t believe it’s going to be any significant part of the solution to the problems we face.”

He said numbers are down due early retirements and “an unprecedented level of resignations”.

The GRA believes salary levels will be a factor in attracting middle aged candidates to the job.

The starting salary of a newly qualified garda is currently £35,000 (£30,000).