PSNI ‘vetting’ dispute escalates
PSNI ‘vetting’ dispute escalates

Sinn Fein has warned the PSNI it may consider its levels of co-operation unless a row involving a former Catholic priest is resolved.

Kevin Kennedy is suing the PSNI after he was forced to quit a civilian post with the policing board, ostensibly because he failed a security assessment.

Last month he failed in a court bid to gain access to security papers used by the PSNI in their assessment. The court heard he failed because of ‘intelligence’ regarding his brother, Dermot.

Mr Kennedy worked as a civil servant for more than 25 years and has no criminal record.

He was appointed as a policy and research officer in 2004, subject to security clearance.

But just two weeks after taking up the job he was suspended on full pay and told the board had received a letter from the PSNI stating that he had failed the ‘security vetting’ process.

Last month, Mr Kennedy failed in a legal attempt to gain access to the intelligence information on which the ‘assessment’ was based.

During a hearing at the High Court in Belfast, it was revealed that the Board was told during the summer of 2004 that Mr Kennedy failed the ‘security vetting’ because of historical and recent intelligence regarding his brother, Dermot Kennedy.

It said the intelligence was very sensitive and a matter of national security.

Dermot Kennedy is a former Sinn Fein Westminster and Assembly election candidate and has never been convicted of a criminal offence.

Six weeks after that, in July 2004, Kevin Kennedy was told he could no longer be employed by the board.

In a letter, he was told he had the option of resigning as an alternative to being dismissed on the basis of his non-security clearance.

Kevin Kennedy was stunned.

“Being asked to leave your place of employment is a very shocking, demeaning and frightening experience. It was something that cut very deeply into my feelings and I felt very badly hurt by what happened,” he says.

Six years on, he now works for the Department of Social Development, and is suing the PSNI for damages.

In a court action expected to be heard in the autumn, he alleges malicious falsehood, negligent misstatement and misfeasance in public office.

“It has damaged my career prospects and my self-confidence, and it has put a dark cloud over myself and my family,” he says.

“It has left me wondering if this kind of activity will affect my four sons, whether this kind of thing will happen to them when they seek jobs.

“It’s a question of justice, it’s a question of honour, it’s a question of reputation and I need to have all these things restored.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey last week raised the case of Kevin Kennedy at a meeting in the Policing Board, which he said brought up “extremely serious issues” for both the the Policing Board and the PSNI.

“This is not a case about security clearance,” he said. “This is a case of political vetting.”

“I intend to establish whether the Policing Board in 2004 was directly complicit in discriminatory employment practices inspired by failed and reactionary political agendas.

“If it emerges that it was then the implications are extremely serious.

“Of course what is required is for the removal from employment law of Section 42, which has for years been used as a tool to politically vet people seeking employment in the public sector.

“In an era post Good Friday Agreement, St Andrews and Hillsborough this discriminatory provision needs repealed.”

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