Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

An Garda Síochána

9:30 am

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

On behalf of the Minister, Deputy McEntee, I thank the Senator for raising the Garda vetting process and improving the system. The primary purpose of the employment vetting carried out by the Garda National Vetting Bureau is to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. I am sure we can all agree on the vital support for this task and the need for it to be carried out thoroughly and correctly.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012-2016 provides that the vetting system is managed by the National Vetting Bureau. As such, the Minister, Deputy McEntee, has no role in the processing of individual vetting applications - I know the Senator has not asked about this. The Minister has been informed that it is currently taking nine working days to process an average individual vetting application and has been assured that the bureau is working to return to its target of five working days for the majority of applications.

However, we accept that for certain applications it is necessary for the vetting bureau to carry out further inquiries, such as, for example, to confirm the information provided by an applicant with external bodies. The time required to receive such information may be outside of the control of the vetting bureau. In such instances, processing times may be longer than the average.

The programme for Government and the justice plan 2023 contain commitments to review the current vetting legislation. That led to the establishment in April 2021 of the Garda vetting review group by the Minister, Deputy McEntee. It has been in touch with proposals from gardaí for potential amendments to vetting legislation. This group includes members of the National Vetting Bureau in An Garda Síochána, officials from the Department of Justice and Tusla and other relevant stakeholders. The primary focus of the group is to deliberate on and formulate recommendations to strengthen vetting legislation in an effective manner. Issues being considered by the group include any changes which may be possible in the matter of vetting and re-vetting. The work of the group is close to being finalised. I understand it will report on its work in the coming months. I can assure the Senator that it is the aim of the Minister, Deputy McEntee, to ensure that the vetting system is fit for purpose, robust and future-proofed to the greatest extent possible in order to continue to protect our children and vulnerable adults.


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