GardaíThrough the course of a conversation with educators on Twitter on Tuesday night, I was amazed to discover that if people belong to different organisations through which they come into contact with children or vulnerable adults, they must get separate Garda vetting for each individual one. One would have thought that once Garda vetting has been approved for any organisation, then that would be transferable to any other organisation with which you were involved.

The difficulty here may be that an individual cannot apply for Garda clearance in a personal capacity. They may only do so as part of an organisation that is registered with the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) for Garda vetting. There may well be good reasons for this system of operation. However, surely it leads to a duplication of services and a wastage of Garda time and resources.

The Teaching Council website says that it currently takes 4-6 weeks to complete the Garda vetting process. Only last month, The Journal website reported that twenty five extra civil servants had to be drafted into the GCVU in order to deal with the backlog of applications for Garda vetting. At that stage, they claimed that it was taking 8-10 weeks to have an application processed. It reported that the GCVU processes applications for around 20,000 organisations and that it processed some 350,000 applications in 2012.

Given these large numbers of applications for Garda vetting, would a more streamlined system in the form of a type of passport/driving licence not be easier to implement?  Such a “passport” would follow the person from organisation to organisation, from job to job. It seems ludicrous that someone has to make multiple applications for Garda vetting, even in the space of one year. One teacher on Twitter mentioned that she had to make FIVE different applications for Garda vetting in a one year period: as a student teacher, for Teaching Council registration, the GAA club, the local hockey club and the youth choir. Two other teachers reported having to make three separate applications. Another person mentioned that a social worker who does work for different agencies has to get separate Garda vetting for each agency.

There are good reasons why Garda vetting is an important aspect of the teaching profession. Since the beginning of the 2006/2007 academic year, Garda vetting was introduced for new teachers and other new appointees who have unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults. The area is governed since January 2011 by Circular 0063/2010. When the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 comes into effect, it will make it mandatory for persons working with children or vulnerable adults to be vetted by the Gardaí whereas at present this is done on the basis of a voluntary code. The Bill will also create offences and penalties for persons who fail to comply with its provisions.

Student teachers have to get Garda clearance before they commence their first teaching practice. However, they must then get Garda clearance again as part of the application for registration with the Teaching Council. Surely, once they start their college course to become a teacher, that Garda clearance should transfer when they start out on their career? Another teacher in the third level sector says that students have to get separate clearance in each year of their course.

I contacted the Garda Press Office and asked them to clarify the following:

  • If it is correct that people must make multiple applications for different clubs/organisations
  • If this is correct, is this not a waste of Garda time
  • Why can one application not be transferable from one organisation to another

I received the following statement in reply:

“The Garda Central Vetting Unit does not provide ‘Garda Clearance’. The function of the GCVU is to conduct Garda Vetting checks in respect of all Garda Vetting applications received from all organisations registered with the GCVU for Garda Vetting services; and issue disclosures in respect of each application to each organisation.

Garda Vetting Disclosures are predicated on the signed authorisation of a Vetting Subject for An Garda Síochána to disclose “details of all prosecutions, successful or not, pending or completed, and/or convictions which may be recorded in respect of them in the State or elsewhere”; or alternatively that there are “no prosecutions or convictions recorded in respect of them” to the registered organisation.

An Garda Síochána records court outcomes as handed down by the Courts in respect of prosecutions; and records indicate whether the prosecuted individual was either convicted or acquitted, and the details pertaining. An Garda Síochána does not record convictions in instances where individuals were not convicted.

One of the questions on the Garda Vetting Application Form is: Have you ever been convicted of an offence in the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere?; and if so, please provide details. This question facilitates, where applicable, the self-disclosure by individuals of any convictions that may be recorded in respect of them”.

In a follow-up enquiry, again on the issue of having to make multiple applications for Garda Vetting, the Garda Press Office simply said that “The onus is on companies/organisations to ensure all their staff are vetted so multiple applications may arise”.

It seems extraordinary to me that, while Garda Vetting is necessary for all personnel working with children and vulnerable adults, a less cumbersome system cannot be found that would allow someone to get Garda Vetting approval for any school/club/organisation with which they are involved.

This video gives a brief demonstration of how the Garda Vetting process works:

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