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Sinn Féin is against politicians being garda vetted

Dublin city councillors are due to debate a motion calling for them and other elected politicians to be garda vetted.

Image: Shutterstock/BlueSkyImage

Updated 6.50pm 

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL will tonight debate a motion calling for all elected politicians to be the subject of garda vetting procedures in the same way that teachers, healthcare workers and other community leaders are.

The proposal is being tabled by two Fine Gael councillors, Noel Rock and Ray McAdam, who believe that the same level of garda vetting applied to other community leaders should be applied to elected officials such as councillors, TDs and Senators.

There is currently no framework for the vetting of elected officials.

However, among those opposing the motion at the council meeting tonight will be Sinn Féin councillors.

The party’s Ballymun-based councillor, Noeleen Reilly, described the proposal as an “out-and-out disgrace” and said the party is seeking legal advice on the motion.

Rock believes that councillors should be subject to the same procedures the Garda Central Vetting Unit and Garda Criminal Records Office apply to the likes of teachers.

‘Surprise’

“I was surprised, given the level of interaction that Councillors and TDs have within their communities, that a basic Garda vetting process isn’t undertaken – it is used for those who work in education, scout leaders etc, so why not politics or Councillors?” he told TheJournal.ie

We have all manner of checks in relation to the finances of politicians, and I feel that it would be good to ensure we are now applying same standards across the board.

Rock believes politicians have “nothing to lose” from the idea and described the current situation where politicians are not vetted as “strange”.

However, Reilly, who shares a council ward with Rock, hit out strongly at the motion in a post on her Facebook page.

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Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, she said: “People are entitled to make mistakes and turn their lives around.

I would know people that would have had issues in the past who have turned their lives around. These people are very much community leaders and these people would be barred from standing for election.

Reilly described the motion as “very ambiguous” and said the motion before the council tonight would discourage people from entering political life.

In response this evening, Rock said: ”I can’t understand why Sinn Féin are against ensuring accountability and against protecting children through further Garda vetting.

“This is a simple, humble motion which has a very specific, straightforward purpose – and would ensure Garda Síochána know who is operating in the community, and allow the community to continue to trust in our councillors.

‘Isn’t proper’

Rock said that staff in Leinster House, where he works as a parliamentary assistant, are subject to background checks but politicians aren’t and ”that isn’t right, that isn’t fair, that isn’t proper”.

“This isn’t about fear-mongering or political policing – but it’s about doing something proactive, instead of simply being reactive,” he continued.

“Councillors are currently respected and trusted figures in our community. All it takes is one person to spoil that trust. I think this process will be a barrier to ensuring that that trust isn’t abused.”

Rock added that he did not believe it would lead to any current politician being disqualified, but would instead allow for greater scrutiny of elected representatives.

An Garda Síochána has been beset by delays in processing applications for vetting in recent years although waiting times were said to have dropped by over 50 per cent in figures published last August.

This came after an additional 25 civil servants were hired in 2013 to reduce the amount of time people had been waiting for their background checks to be carried out.

First published on Saturday, 11 April 2015. 

Read: Garda vetting of 36,000 teachers will wait until after new laws are brought in

Read: Garda vetting times have improved by over 50%

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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