Employee background checks on nationalists are now including information provided by the British intelligence services, falsely linking some people to illegal organisations in an apparent attempt to wreck their employment chances.
Access NI is the official criminal records disclosure agency in the Six Counties, within Stormont’s Department of Justice. It carries out background checks for all employers, and such vetting is compulsory for people working in a variety of community positions.
However, checks now being carried out include ‘information’ provided by PSNI and MI5 linking individuals with no previous criminal records of any kind to republican armed groups.
Sean Montgomery from the Markets area of south Belfast took a High Court challenge against a delay in issuing his Access NI certificate and the inclusion of uncorroborated intelligence on his check.
A former member of Sinn Fein, Mr Montgomery left the party in 2005 over the stance on policing. He took High Court action after his background check was returned stating he “may be a suspected member” of an IRA group, an allegation he strongly denied.
Having settled the case, he is now seeking damages for loss of earnings due to the delay.
Many other republicans not known to be Sinn Fein supporters have had “intelligence-based information” attached to their background check.
Mr Montgomery warned that British military and police intelligence agencies is preventing those with differing political opinions from seeking employment in the community sector “with no need to substantiate by producing evidence”.
He said to claim that someone is linked to a republican group “places that person at risk from attack and restricts their employment prospects and areas they can work in.
“It’s the abuse of a process that was set up to protect young people from sex offender, and is instead being used for political censorship.”