Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

An Garda Síochána

9:30 am

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I thank him for taking this Commencement matter, which concerns the issue of Garda vetting. I am sure the Minister of State is quite familiar with the issue. We have a National Vetting Bureau and the legislation is in place. The Minister of State will understand the frustration of many individuals and organisations seeking Garda vetting. Let us use the example of a childcare worker who wants to work with their local GAA club. He or she again must get Garda vetting. If that person works with a group of children in, for example, a youth drama initiative, that person needs Garda vetting again.The same individual could end up having to go through several processes of Garda vetting in the one year.

Garda vetting is very important. However, all it indicates is whether an individual has a criminal record or is a threat to vulnerable persons. My frustration around this, as I am sure the Minister of State has experienced, is that people have to go through the process several times. Sometimes, depending on how busy Garda vetting is, the process can take a number of weeks. An anomaly exists with regard to certain organisations or types of employment.

I want to raise the question of school buses, with which the Minister of State will be very familiar. If somebody operates a school bus run on behalf of Bus Éireann, there is a requirement for the contractor's drivers to be Garda vetted. If, however, someone is working for a private bus company where an individual can drive a private bus which may also include the same group of schoolchildren there is no requirement for Garda vetting. It is even more complicated in cases where a bus driver is working for James Browne coaches which has a contract with Bus Éireann. I have to be Garda vetted to work for that company, and if I decide to then work for Niall Blaney coaches which has a contract with Bus Éireann I have to be Garda vetted all over again.

There is a lack of joined-up thinking in this process. I am aware that in April 2021, the Minister for Justice set up an interdepartmental Garda vetting review group. It examined a number of these areas, including the question of mandatory re-vetting and the system of cross-vetting so that if someone was vetted for one role that could carry all across to other roles. As yet, there has been no indication of when the report will be published. The Minister of State might be able to clarify that or provide some detail on the findings. It is important that we simplify this process and make it as easy as possible for employers and voluntary organisations.

Garda vetting is important in order to safeguard children and young people. The process should be as simple as possible and should also be one that organisations have faith in. They have a difficulty in that there do not seem to be the necessary checks. It seems to be overly cumbersome. I would be grateful if the Minister of State could provide us with an update.


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