The body with responsibility for issuing such licences, the Private Security Authority (PSA), has admitted more than 7,400 people who received licences following the presentation of a foreign Criminal Record Certificate underwent no further vetting. These certificates are not checked by gardaí and no contact is made with the authorities that issued them to confirm their accuracy.
A PSA statement said: “Foreign Criminal Record Certificates are required by all applicants who have resided outside of Ireland for a period of six months or more. The certificates are not referred to An Garda Síochána and, once the authority is satisfied as to the authenticity of the certificate and assess any convictions against the authority’s guidelines on convictions, no further checks are carried out.”
A PSA spokesman said when the body began issuing licences in early 2007 Criminal Record Certificates checks were made with foreign embassies and gardaí, but this practice was discontinued.
Criminal Record Certificates presented to the PSA come mainly from Eastern Europe, Nigeria and the Indian sub-continent. Concerns about the background checks on PSA licence holders grew after the death of Tipperary man Michael Dwyer in Bolivia. It emerged that among the group of men with whom he is believed to have travelled to Bolivia was a Romanian national who, although a leading member of a violent right-wing paramilitary group in his home country, was granted a PSA security licence last year. Mr Dwyer worked alongside this man providing security at Shell construction sites in Co Mayo.
It has since emerged that several other members of the same paramilitary group have also worked in Ireland as security guards.
Holders of a PSA licence are legally entitled to be employed as door supervisors, security guards, suppliers or installers of security equipment, private investigators, security consultants, providers of protected forms of transport, locksmiths and suppliers or installers of safes.
Labour Party European Affairs spokesman Joe Costello said the findings revealed how tighter vetting requirements were needed.
“The PSA licensing system needs to be tightened up considerably. The obvious thing is for all applicants to be vetted by gardaí and they can run them through Interpol checks as well.”
An Irish Security Industry Association spokeswoman said it did not get involved in the licensing process.
“We only stipulate that all our member companies’ employees have the necessary PSA licence,” she said.