The Northern Vetting Office of the Catholic Church in Ireland operates from the Good Shepherd Centre, 511 Ormeau Road, Belfast, BT7 3GS and is responsible for processing pre-employment checks on behalf of the Northern Dioceses on all individuals wishing to work with children and vulnerable adults. Checks are processed in line with current legislation and under the authority delegated by the Northern Bishops. The general guiding principle of the Bishops is that all those who can be checked should be checked. 

The office forms part of the Safe Recruitment process laid out in the Standards document of the NBSCCCI. Decisions regarding risk and suitability of an individual to work with children or vulnerable adults are taken by the Vetting and Barring Coordinator. These decisions are based on the information disclosed during the Enhanced Disclosure Check along with any further enquiries seen as necessary. 

It was the accepted opinion and recommendation of the Northern Ireland Disclosure Programme Board, Northern Ireland Office, PSNI, AccessNI and Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland (PPANI) that the structure best suited to support the protection of children and vulnerable adults was for organisations to centralise their vetting function. The reasons for this are threefold: 

  • To capitalise on consistency of approach; 
  • Professional standards; and  
  • The continuity of the level of risk acceptance. 

This recommended approach was accepted by the Catholic Church in 2008 when AccessNI became operational. It is also still seen as best practice and followed by all major organisations including the main churches, voluntary and sports bodies, including the GAA. 


The Vetting Office is staffed by three part-time employees: a Vetting and Barring Coordinator, a Vetting Supervisor and a Vetting Officer. The role of the Vetting and Barring Coordinator is currently performed by Mr Andrew Thomson. The Vetting staff undertake external AccessNI training to keep them fully informed of the AccessNI structure and the various legislative changes that occur. The Vetting Officers also undertake ongoing internal training by the Vetting and Barring Coordinator, developing their expertise and skills to guide and support the various church roles and activities throughout the Northern Dioceses. 

In 2017 the Vetting Office processed over 1600 vetting applications and currently has over 18,000 nominals on our database.