It would be unfair if convictions received while her marriage was breaking up stayed on her record for life, a Dublin woman told the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Rita Donoghue was dismissed by Dublin West Home Help Ltd, after seven years, when Garda vetting was introduced for home helps in 2010.
Ms Donoghue told the tribunal she married when she was 18 against her parents’ wishes and had six children. She said the marriage was abusive and claimed her husband was a drug addict and an alcoholic who beat her and forced her to steal, and pass forged cheques.
She had spent time in a refuge and had more than six addresses during her marriage, she claimed.
Ms Donoghue acknowledged a number of convictions, some criminal and some for traffic offences, and said she had been jailed twice, but on at least one occasion had been let out of prison after three weeks “because the gardaí knew my situation”.
Ms Donoghue said her marriage ended after 30 years when her sons grew up and she was no longer afraid of her husband. She secured first a barring order and later a divorce.
The tribunal was told Dublin West Home Help had reached a funding agreement with the HSE in 2009. It required all new staff to be vetted.
Ms Donoghue filled in a form in 2011 and spoke to her line manager Mary Flood, explaining she would probably not pass the vetting procedure. She was concerned that she "would be on the dole for life".
Ms Flood told the tribunal the situation was difficult but the company’s clients were vulnerable people who were being cared for in their own homes.
Ms Flood said Ms Donoghue had filled in the vetting form but only disclosed a number of convictions, leaving out those which had taken place in each of the last three years.
This was revealed when the Garda report came in November 2012. She asked Ms Donoghue to explain and was told the form was not long enough to record all her convictions.
Ms Flood referred the matter to the board which decided to terminate Ms Donoghue’s employment.
Mary McDermott, for the board, said the reason was “a breach of trust” in that Ms Donoghue had not disclosed all convictions, a least three of which had occurred when Ms Donoghue worked for the home help service.
Tribunal chairman Peter O’Leary asked for information on the statutory basis under which the HSE was able to require vetting for existing staff.