10 April 2006

New jobs: PSNI to vet ex-prisoners


by Damian McCarney

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFormer republican prisoners fear that security checks will prevent them from benefiting from new jobs announced recently at an engineering firm based in Springvale Park. (Photo: Caomhín Mac Giolla Mhín - Coiste)

Direct rule Minister for Trade, Angela Smith, recently announced government investment in generator manufacturers FG Wilson worth over £12 million to help provide 155 jobs in three plants across the North.

However, agency staff already employed at the Springvale plant, many of whom are from West Belfast, have been told that they must seek security clearance from the PSNI before they will be considered for full-time jobs. Applicants must send a letter along with a £10 fee, which will be reimbursed, before April 12 to PSNI headquarters requesting them to disclose details of prosecutions, convictions and cautions to FG Wilson.

Former republican prisoners working at the plant believe that convictions arising from their role in the conflict will stand against them. One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Andersonstown News that, having worked for Wilson’s through an employment agency, he would like a full-time job. But this requirement provided an effective barrier.

“I don’t see myself as a criminal. Why should I send away a form to the PSNI for them to say that I am a criminal, and pay for the pleasure of it?

“What would be the use in having fought against criminalisation for all those years if the forms were then to say that we were criminals? It’s madness.”

He was also concerned that his own safety would be compromised if he were to comply with the security clearance.

“If anyone gets the form, it is going to be floating around Monkstown and Larne factories,” said the man.

Caomhín Mac Giolla Mhín, a spokesperson for former republican prisoners’ support group, Coiste na n-Iarchimí, said that this was a common problem facing former prisoners.

“Coiste is continuing to work to remove these intimidatory barriers of ex-prisoners which they face in daily life. If the good Friday Agreement recognised that these people were not criminals by releasing them into society it is essential that the rest of society treats them as equal citizens. If it was not for the conflict these people would not have spent a single day in prison.

“This vetting is a problem right across industries. There is also a problem that we have a political police force doing the political vetting, so we are caught in a vicious circle,” said Mr Mac Giolla Mhín.

When asked by the Andersonstown News if convictions arising from the conflict would stand against them in the application process, a spokesperson for FG Wilson said, “FG Wilson has a standard recruitment and selection process which has been developed in line with recommended best practice.”

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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