Garda vetting vital for those in daily contact with children, Flanagan says

Minister at odds with bureau claiming some staff access to children ‘incidental’ to job

Minister for Justice  Charlie Flanagan: it has emerged employees at prominent State attractions who could have access to children and vulnerable people may not be vetted. Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan: it has emerged employees at prominent State attractions who could have access to children and vulnerable people may not be vetted. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The Minister for Justice has said any person who works on a daily basis in the presence of children should be Garda-vetted, following a row between the Department of Culture and An Garda Síochána.

It emerged last month that 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.

Almost every recent application made by the Department of Culture to the Garda National Vetting Bureau has not been processed, correspondence revealed.

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.

Charlie Flanagan is at odds with the Garda National Vetting Bureau which have said that certain employees do not need to be vetted because the presence of children is “incidental” to the job itself.

“I believe anybody who works on a daily basis in the presence of children and young people should be vetted, but I haven’t discussed this issue with Minister Madigan, ” the Minister told The Irish Times.

‘Minimum bureaucracy’

Mr Flanagan said said those who work around children on an ongoing basis should generally be subject to such vetting.

“What I am very keen to ensure is that those who require Garda vetting, of whom there are many thousands of people on a regular basis, can have their vetting done in a way that doesn’t result in a delay. And I’m pleased that there has been progress in that regard and I will continue to closely monitor that.

“The vetting unit has been given extra resources and staff and times have been reduced. I’m very conscious, for example, of perhaps nurses and people in the medical profession who may come back here from overseas, that they can have the minimum in terms of bureaucracy that is necessary.

“But it’s absolutely essential that we have a robust vetting regime and I acknowledge the work that the gardaí are doing in that regard.”

The vulnerable

In correspondence to the Department of Culture, the Garda National Vetting 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 [people] . . . is deemed incidental to the presence of those whom are not children or vulnerable persons, meaning hat these are not roles which require vetting.”

The roles in question included visitor guides and gallery volunteers.

In correspondence, the Department of Culture 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.