Air travel businesses have agreed a temporary solution with gardaí on extra security checks on staff that threatened to slow much-needed recruitment.
New laws enacted in January demand “enhanced” security background checks on new recruits and around 40,000 existing airline and airport workers, on top of the standard vetting that has applied for many years.
Airlines and airports feared the extra “intelligence” checks, as they are known, would hit recruitment as air travel recovered into the first holiday season since the Government axed Covid curbs.
It is understood the industry recently agreed a temporary solution with An Garda Síochána aimed at avoiding bottlenecks as airlines, airports and baggage handling companies hire staff coming into the summer.
Under the compromise new workers can take up their jobs once they pass the basic background vetting, while gardaí continue with the extra intelligence checks, which can take longer to complete.
Reports last month suggested that the new rule had contributed to long queues at Dublin Airport as it was slowing the recruitment of security staff.
The checks apply to all those working in airport security zones, including airline and airport staff, as well as baggage handlers and other employees.
These workers receive passes enabling them to work in security zones once the checks clear them.
Gardaí normally complete standard vetting, which checks if someone has a criminal conviction or charges pending against them, in seven to eight working days. However, they say that it is not possible to set times for the extra intelligence checks required since January as each case is different.
Air travel businesses had complained that this process was taking weeks to complete and hindered efforts to recruit new staff.
The time needed depends on factors including whether job candidates had lived outside the State, and on the number of countries and addresses where they may have resided.
“International addresses necessitate liaison with international agencies, over which An Garda Síochána has no control,” a Garda statement said earlier this year.
The force pointed out that many air travel workers had lived outside the State at some point as this was common in their industry.
The Garda National Vetting Bureau carries out the standard background checks, while the National Crime & Security Intelligence Service carries out the extra intelligence checks.
Government implemented an EU directive, 2019/103 in January that required the intelligence checks along with the standard vetting, which has applied to aviation workers for many years.
Among other things, the intelligence checks review workers’ employment and education history, along with any gaps in both, which can require gardaí to contact police overseas.
The Department of Transport designated State airports operator DAA as the central processing authority, so it refers applications to An Garda Síochána.
The force has developed a dedicated IT system through which the airports operator submits applications to both the vetting unit and intelligence service for the two stages of the process.
Existing staff have to go through both procedures, along with candidates for new jobs, as the passes are renewed every year.
DAA said that it did not comment on security measures. The company added that it adhered to all regulations meant to ensure that staff were cleared to work in international airports.