Gay Irish police officers were again banned from wearing their uniforms at a Pride march in Dublinto take place Saturday.

The decision to ban members of the Garda Siochana (Irish Police) from wearing their uniforms has been heavily criticised.

Speaking at the annual conference for the European Gay Police Association, Association president Herman Renes criticized the ban.

As Dublin hosted the EGPA conference for the first time, Chief Supt Renes slammed the decision to ban gay Irish officers from wearing their uniforms at a pride march in their own capital city.

“This decision is a missed opportunity to increase the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) officers in this country,” said Renes.

The Irish Times reports that a sizeable contingent of the EGPA will march in uniform at the Pride celebrations tomorrow, but their Irish colleagues must march in plain clothes.

A spokesman for the Irish police force said any officer attending would be off-duty, and “as such are prohibited from wearing uniforms."

The Irish ruling is at odds with common practice in Britain and many parts of Europe, where police officers have been wearing uniforms in such marches for much of the past decade.

Sgt Paul Franey, the Irish vice-president of the EGPA, declined to comment to the Irish Times on the ban.

Franey, who is also secretary of G-Force, the Irish support group for gay and lesbian officers, said: “I want to focus on the positive, we have much to celebrate in terms of bringing the EGPA conference to Dublin and we have been treated with the utmost respect by the Irish State this week.”

The Times did note that special permission was given by the force’s Commissioner to allow off-duty officers to wear their uniforms at a reception hosted by Irish President Michael D. Higgins on Wednesday to welcome EGPA delegates.

Forty uniformed members of the Irish force and 70 police officers from across Europe and the United States attended the reception. 

President Higgins praised the Irish police force for moving away from its traditional image as a conservative organisation to winning employer of the year at the Gay and Lesbian awards two years ago.

“I want you to know how proud I am that our own gardaí [police] have come to a point where they could be of assistance in organising a conference like this,” he said.

“Despite positive changes such as the bringing into law of civil partnership for same-sex couples, which fall short of full recognition in a rights sense, there are still challenges.

“Some members of our society retain closed minds and persistently refuse to accept anything which they would define as departing from the norm.”

EGPA president Renes praised Higgins for his speech.

The Dutch policeman said: “It was a brave speech by your President. This is not just about theLGBT community; this is about human rights, and when you tackle this issue it shows how an organisation is committed to tackling many other issues of discrimination.”