Independent review into St John Ambulance historical abuse to be completed in coming weeks

Commitment that report into historical child abuse in first aid organisation will be published

An independent review into historical child sex abuse in first aid organisation St John Ambulance is in its final stages and expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

The review was commissioned by the organisation after The Irish Times reported that several men had allegedly been sexually abused by a senior figure in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin in the 1990s.

The individual, now in his 80s, was a member of the organisation from the 1950s until about 2000, leaving under pressure to resign after one survivor reported the alleged abuse.

Tusla, the State child and family agency, deemed child abuse allegations made against the man to be “founded”, following its own statutory investigation in recent years.

READ MORE

Following media reports, a number of further alleged victims came forward, with at least eight men to date claiming to have been sexually abused by the same former senior figure while in the organisation. The alleged abuse ranged from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Two men claimed to have reported the alleged abuse to the organisation at the time.

Child law expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon, a former government special rapporteur on child protection, was commissioned by St John Ambulance to conduct an independent review into the historical abuse.

Dr Shannon was appointed in March 2021 to carry out the work, which included reviewing records and interviewing alleged abuse victims, as well as current and former volunteers.

One abuse survivor, Mick Finnegan (39) from Crumlin in Dublin, who had campaigned for an investigation into the past abuse, met Dr Shannon in recent weeks for an update on the status of the review.

It is understood Dr Shannon outlined that the interviews for the report had largely been completed. The report, which is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks, is to make a number of recommendations and findings.

At the meeting it is understood Dr Shannon stated he had interviewed some 90 people as part of the work, which had provided significant insight into the past culture of the organisation.

The finished report will be sent to the board of St John Ambulance, which has given assurances to survivors that it will be published afterwards.

Responding to recent correspondence from survivors seeking a commitment the report would be published, Dr Shannon said the organisation’s commissioner, John Hughes, said the board had confirmed a “commitment to publishing the report, in full, for public consumption, after the obligatory legal scrutiny”.

Responding to questions on the matter in the Dáil last month, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said it was also his expectation that the report would be released to the public.

“While I have no direct power of compulsion of the publication of the report, I want to state unequivocally that I want to see this report published at the end of the process,” he said.

In a statement, St John Ambulance said its board “remains committed” to publishing the report, “after the obligatory legal scrutiny is conducted”.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times