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Recommendations for reform of garda vetting pushed back due to 'complex' nature of review

An inter-departmental group was due to submit its recommendations at the end of 2021 but this deadline was missed.

File photo of a soup run
File photo of a soup run
Image: Shutterstock/Valeriya Popova 22

THE REPORT OF a review into the reform and extension of the garda vetting regime has been delayed due to the “complexity” of the matter.

A inter-departmental group tasked with examining the overall reform and extension of garda vetting was due to report to Justice Minister Helen McEntee by the end of last year.

However, The Journal has confirmed that this deadline was missed and the group now plans to submit its recommendations to the minister in the second quarter of this year.

In September, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced a review of garda vetting procedures for the homelessness sector.

The review was launched amid investigations into allegations of sexual assault against Anthony Flynn, the late campaigner who worked with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH).

At the time, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) was among those to call for greater vetting and regulation in the sector.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice told The Journal the inter-departmental group “continues to work through a number of complex issues (including the inclusion of homeless outreach services) as part of an overall approach to the reform of and extension of the garda vetting regime”.

“Due to the complexity of some of this work, the deadline for the recommendations has been extended to Q2 2022,” they added.

Staff and volunteers at registered homeless charities are garda vetted and these organisations have to meet strict criteria to maintain their charity status. However, unofficial organisations are not regulated in the same way as they are not registered.

Flynn himself was garda vetted and had social care qualifications.

‘Vetting and re-vetting’

Speaking in September, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: “There are strict criteria as to who can be vetted and who aren’t vetted then.

“In light of [the Inner City Helping Homeless] incident, we’ll obviously have to review that because one can regard that the homeless are particularly vulnerable and that then may be an area that needs resolution. Certainly, we’re looking into that.”

When asked about what changes have been put in place in recent months, a spokesperson for DRHE this week said the organisation “strongly supports vetting and re-vetting of staff in frontline services to homeless people”.

“We welcomed the comments made last year by the Garda Commissioner when he stated that there will be a review of its vetting procedures surrounding workers in the homeless sector.

“The leading homeless charities already have arrangements in place for staff and volunteers and any new/revised Garda Vetting arrangements for the homeless sector will be extended by the DRHE to all staff working in homeless services with a frontline role.”

Speaking to The Journal last September, Dublin City Council’s then deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny said that due to the high number of informal homeless organisations set up in recent years there is “currently no vetting, no controls, on many people who are actually interacting directly with homeless people”.

Kenny had responsibility for the DRHE prior to his retirement in October.

At the time he said he doesn’t want “over-regulation” to lead to certain groups disbanding but added: “At the moment there’s nothing and that’s not good enough.”

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Kenny said the allegations made against Flynn highlight how important it is to ensure those working with homeless people are vetted and held to account.

“The idea that an organisation can just spring up without any accountability at all and provide services to the most vulnerable people in the city doesn’t make sense. There needs to be some regulation,” he stated.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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