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Minister's reply "not good enough" - McDowell should raise vetting issue with Hain - Ó Caoláin

26 January, 2006


Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell to raise with British Secretary of State Peter Hain today the urgent need to restore the service formerly provided by the British authorities to the Gardai for vetting Six-County or British residents who have applied to work with children in the 26 Counties.

In reply to a Dáil Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin, Minister McDowell has confirmed that changes in British vetting procedures "have the potential to create significant difficulties for the Garda Siochána in submitting requests for vetting to the British authorities". The Minister said there is 'high-level contact' between the Gardai and the British authorities to resolve the difficulties. Deputy Ó Caoláin stated:

"The Minister's reply fails to allay the grave concerns over the potential breakdown of cross-border vetting procedures in Ireland. It is not good enough for this to be left to the two police services. I have written to the Minister this morning and urged him to raise this matter with British Secretary of State Peter Hain when he meets him today.

"News of the British decision to change procedures came as a shock to all those who work with children and to those who work in the child protection services. If unresolved quickly it would mean that someone who abuses a child on one side of the border can, after serving his or her sentence, move to the other side of the border and apply for a job working with children with little chance of being found out.

"This highlights the urgent need for an all-Ireland approach to child protection services." ENDS

Dáil PQ 25/1/06

1195. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the British authorities have given a reason for their decision to cancel the service formerly provided to the Garda Síochána of vetting British or Six County residents who have applied to work with children here; the steps he proposes to take to enable vetting of such applicants in the wake of this decision; if a reversal of the decision will be sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2252/06]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): On 13 December 2005, the British National Central Bureau of Interpol issued a communiqué to all Interpol member states, including Ireland, signalling changes in British vetting procedures.

The nature of these changes would have the potential to create significant difficulties for the Garda Síochána in submitting requests for vetting to the British authorities. Accordingly, high-level contact is occurring between the Garda authorities and their British Interpol counterparts with a view to reaching a satisfactory resolution of the potential difficulties.

I am closely monitoring developments. Should a satisfactory resolution not be reached at a police-to-police level, I will not hesitate to pursue the matter in other fora.

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