Some workers at State attractions do not need to be vetted, Garda says

Force asserts checks are not needed as presence of children at certain sites is ‘incidental’

An Garda Síochána say vetting not needed in places where presence of children is ‘incidental’. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

An Garda Síochána say vetting not needed in places where presence of children is ‘incidental’. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Certain employees at well-known State attractions do not need to be vetted because the presence of children is “incidental”, An Garda Síochána has said.

It emerged last week that 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 numerous recent applications made by the Department of Culture to the Garda National Vetting Bureau have 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. Senior officials have been seeking full Garda vetting for roles such as visitor guides and volunteers.

In response to queries from The Irish Times, a Garda spokesman said the current law states that there is no “general obligation” on organisations such as OPW heritage sites or the National Gallery to subject certain employees to Garda vetting because the presence of children is “merely incidental” to the roles in question. “An organisation does not have any legal power to request vetting details in regard to any person unless that person is conducting relevant work,” the spokesman said.

The Department of Culture said on Monday that it is in discussions with the bureau in a bid to resolve the row.

“The department, together with the national cultural institutions are in discussion with the Garda National Vetting Bureau to see how we can resolve the current issues affecting the appropriate assessment of job applicants”.

Correspondence has revealed 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.

“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.”

There is concern in the department that unsuitable individuals could seek access to children through applying for such jobs and avoid the vetting process.

A source in the department said there is a belief that the legislation underpinning vetting is being “interpreted in a vacuum” and said the primary concern should be the protection of children.