- 30 Jun 20
Yesterday, Hot Press reported on a controversial development at the direct provision centre in in Cahersiveen, when local activist Helen Richmond was told that she would have to join the “Friends of the Centre” group and be subjected to vetting, to visit her own friends in the Skellig Star Hotel. Not so, says the Department of Justice...
What is the current policy in relation to vetting of people who are in contact with people in Direct Provision? Clearly the State has a duty of care to everyone who is used within the direct provision system. This is especially true of children, who are clearly very vulnerable in circumstances that are in themselves utterly abnormal.
Critics of the system of direct provision argue strongly – and in many ways convincingly – that the State has not carried out that duty of care with anything like the sensitivity that it requires. However, it emerged over the past couple of days, in a report in Hot Press, that the responsibility was being used as a rationalisation of restricting access afforded to friendly locals to meet or talk to residents in the Direct Provision centre in the Skellig Star Hotel in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry.
That there is a need for some form of vetting, where official contact with children is involved, is clear. But to whom does this apply? And if an individual has been vetted for other reasons – for example as a teacher – should that clean bill of health not then apply, without complication, to access to direct provision centres?
Following complaints from local activist Helen Richmond of Fáilte Cahersiveen about being excluded from the Skellig Star Hotel, Hot Press asked the Department of Justice to clarify its policy on vetting.
The overall position on vetting is carefully outlined in detail by the Department. However, the line which matters to Helen Richmond is towards the end. The letter from the department states: "Personal friends and acquaintances of residents do not require Garda vetting. IPAS has contacted the centre management to clarify all the above."
This seems unequivocal in its reassurance that Helen should not have been excluded from visiting the centre in Cahersiveen. And, presumably, that she is now free to visit people in the centre.
Below we publish the response provided by the Department of Justice, in full...
"The Department welcomes and supports interaction between local residents and residents in our Centres.
"Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, our centres were closed to visitors for a number of months, in order to protect our residents and staff.
"In line with the phased re-opening of society and gradual lifting of public health restrictions, our centres reopened to certain categories of visitors last Monday.
"These categories included Migrant NGOs, members of Friends of the Centre groups (established in cooperation with the centre management team and IPAS), Department of Justice officials and contractors visiting centres for inspections, maintenance and general network management, and other State officials providing services to residents. All centres were informed of this first phase of reopening to visitors with effect from last Monday on the previous Friday, 19th June.
"Opening up of centres to other categories of visitors including friends and acquaintances from the local community and persons acting in an official capacity requiring one to one contact (e.g. legal representatives and IPAS officials conducting resident clinics) will happen in subsequent phases over the coming weeks in accordance with ongoing consultation with public health officials.
"As per the Government guidelines on the further easing of restrictions on movement outside the home, residents can of course meet with anyone from the local community outside of the centre, but in doing so are encouraged to continue following the guidelines on hand hygiene, cough / sneeze etiquette, and social distancing.
"In relation to Garda vetting for NGOs and volunteers, this must be done through their own organisation who can then confirm with centre managers that volunteers have up to date and appropriate vetting disclosures. Individuals not affiliated with an organisation and who wish to volunteer in a centre should contact Volunteer Ireland for advice on how to obtain a Vetting Disclosure. Personal friends and acquaintances of residents do not require Garda vetting. IPAS has contacted the centre management to clarify all the above."