An article in today's Irish Independent reports that Garda Vetting is required for more than 225 CAO courses. With no Spent Convictions legislation in Ireland, this means that people who committed minor offences in the past - no matter how unrelated to the area of education, and no matter how long ago - can meet potential barriers in accessing education.
While Garda Vetting is, of course, a necessary reality for many areas of work - particularly in those areas which involve working with children and vulnerable adults - IPRT is very concerned that in the absence of fair and effective Spent Convictions legislation, people can be affected in ways that are disproportionate to the offence committed. IPRT is frequently contacted by people who have minor convictions, for which they might have received a small fine, who are still experiencing obstacles to employment and education - in some cases after more than 20 years of no further offending.
The Government has committed to introducing a "new improved" Spent Convictions Bill in autumn 2011. In the meantime, IPRT is continuing to campaign strongly for the Bill to be introduced at the earliest opportunity, for optimum levels of legal protection in the Bill, and for a broadening of the agenda for reform.
How the Garda Vetting process works (from the Irish Independent article)
When a [Higher Education Institute] makes offers to applicants on a relevant course, it sends them a form to complete, where they must give their name, date of birth and all addresses they have lived in since their birth. They will also be asked to disclose any convictions they may have. Failure to disclose a conviction could do them more harm than the conviction itself.
Each HEI submits all the forms to the Garda Vetting Unit for clearance, and the Garda Vetting Unit returns the forms to the college when it has processed them. CAO's website states that in some cases the HEIs may require applicants to provide more information by way of an affidavit, so an offer of a place on a course would be conditional and might be withdrawn if applicants did not meet the vetting requirements.
Any disclosure of a conviction is dealt with on a case-by-case basis and in complete confidentiality by the relevant HEI.