Sexual Abuse Allegations in Scouting Ireland
As with any profession involving the care of children, Scouting Ireland must adhere to strict guidelines regarding Garda vetting of volunteers, both senior and junior, to ensure the safety of the children in their care.
In recent news, four senior Scouting Ireland figures have stood down from their positions while an independent inquiry is completed regarding the handling by senior volunteers of a rape allegation made in 2016.
The complaint was made by a female leader who claimed that she was raped by a male leader on a camping trip seven years previously, and criticised the actions of four senior volunteers in their handling of the complaint.
The male leader was readmitted to Scouting Ireland after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute. However, GardaÍ advice to resubmit the man for Garda vetting was not followed.
Larch Hill in south Co Dublin. The alleged abuse took place during a camping trip here in 2014. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Child Sexual Abuse by Scout Leaders
When David O’Brien was convicted of sexually abusing six young boys on camping trips in the 1970s and 1980s, Scouting Ireland issued a heartfelt and apologetic statement, assuring parents of its adherence to the highest child protection standards.
“We wish to reassure the Irish people that the procedures and policies of Scouting Ireland in relation to child protection are recognised as best practice in our sector. We have a fully professional child protection team which ensures compliance with the highest standards across our 12,000 volunteers and our 500 groups around the country,”
the statement said.
Another recent file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions over an alleged child sexual abuse case during another scouting camping trip in 2014 at Larch Hill, Dublin. Previous complaints had been made by a parent of the child, prior to the alleged sexual abuse disclosure from the boy. The complaints were investigated by Scouting Ireland in 2015, with all parties interviewed at the time. The male leader was in the same Scout troop as the alleged victim, and the child has since left the group.
The leader under investigation is still involved in scouting.
“Grave and Serious Concern”
Last Thursday, Katherine Zappone told the Dáil she had recently received several confidential disclosures regarding Scouting Ireland of “grave and serious concern”.
State funding of almost €1 million per year is to be withheld from Scouting Ireland due to concerns of the organisation’s handling of the 2016 rape allegation and also due to concerns about the governance of the organisation.
More meetings between the department and the Scouts are expected in the coming weeks.
In the Dáil last week, Ms Zappone confirmed that Chief Scout, Christy McCann, is stepping down in the interim while the investigation is underway and said that she would now allow due process take place.
“Scouting Ireland commissioned Mr Ian Elliott to carry out a review into the organisation’s handling of an allegation of a serious sexual assault on an adult volunteer by another adult volunteer,”
Ms Zappone said.
“While this alleged assault took place in 2009 it was only reported within the organisation in 2016.
“The purpose of the review was to examine all matters surrounding the reinstatement of the individual in question, including the roles of individual senior volunteers of the organisation in the reinstatement process.
“I am aware that Mr Elliott’s report on this issue resulted in Scouting Ireland engaging a barrister to conduct a full investigation into this allegation, particularly with regard to the handling of the matter by certain senior volunteers.
“I will be provided with copies of both reports when completed and I would prefer to await the outcome of these investigations before making further comment.”