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Ireland

Vetting concerns as Garda restricts processing of background checks

Decision relates to guides and gallery volunteer access to children and the vulnerable

In one email, the Garda National Vetting Bureau said “the institutions in question are places open to the public at large and each of the roles . . . would be working with everyone in attendance.” Photograph: Hemera/Thinkstock/Getty

In one email, the Garda National Vetting Bureau said “the institutions in question are places open to the public at large and each of the roles . . . would be working with everyone in attendance.” Photograph: Hemera/Thinkstock/Getty

New employees at prominent State attractions who could have access to children and vulnerable people may not be vetted after An Garda Síochána “clamped down” on processing applications for background checks.

Correspondence seen by The Irish Times shows that almost every recent application made by the Department of Culture to the Garda National Vetting Bureau has not been processed.

The department co-ordinates vetting for people employed by bodies including the National Library of Ireland, the National Concert Hall and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The correspondence shows that a compliance unit in the bureau has been examining which roles should and should not be subject to vetting.

In one email to the department, the bureau said “the institutions in question are places open to the public at large and each of the roles you mention would be working with everyone in attendance.

Unsuitable individuals

“This means that the presence of any children or vulnerable [persons] ... is deemed incidental to the presence of those whom are not children or vulnerable persons, meaning that these are not roles which require vetting.”

The roles in question included visitor guides and gallery volunteers.

A source said there is concern in the department that unsuitable individuals could seek access to children through applying for such jobs and avoid the vetting because of the contention that the presence of children is “incidental”.

Garda vetting is carried out to ascertain that people carrying out work or activities which see them having contact with children or vulnerable persons do not have anything in their background that might make them unsuitable for the role.

In response with the bureau, the department said it had applied the “same logic” in seeking vetting for such roles since 2012. The department said it would appear that the bureau had “clamped down on the rationale being applied for all applications” pointing towards the “exponential growth in the number of applications being processed” since the advent of online applications for vetting.

‘New logic’

Concerns were also raised that several individuals who, through vetting, were previously found to be unsuitable to work with children could get access to such jobs now if the new logic is applied.

“Another point of concern for both the department and the bodies under the aegis of the department is the public and media scrutiny which comes with the nature of the institutions for which we vet,” the department said.

“We have come across several individuals who have been deemed unsuitable to work in a public building or institution with access to children and vulnerable persons, and have had the offer of employment rescinded.

“Using the current rational being applied by the compliance unit these individuals would not have been vetted.”

Asked about the matter, a Garda spokesman said that in general “Garda vetting is conducted in respect of any person who is carrying out work or activity, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, children or vulnerable persons”.

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