Report into past child abuse sent to St John Ambulance board

Independent investigation had been commissioned to examine handling of past abuse allegations

A report investigating historical child sex abuse in St John Ambulance has been completed, with the voluntary first aid organisation expected to come under significant pressure to publish the findings in the coming weeks.

The independent investigation had been undertaken by child law expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon, with a final report sent to the board of the organisation on Monday, following more than 18 months of work.

The review was commissioned 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 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.

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To date at least nine men have claimed they were sexually abused by the same former senior figure, with the alleged abuse reported to have taken place from the late 1960s to the late 1990s.

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

In correspondence to survivors on Monday evening, Dr Shannon confirmed his completed report had now been shared with the board of St John Ambulance (SJAI). “It is my hope that this report will be published by SJAI in accordance with their previous statement,” he wrote.

In a statement, the organisation’s board said it appreciated “many people are eager to review the findings of this report”.

The board said it intended “to publish the full report for public consumption immediately after the relevant legal, insurance and data protection review has taken place”.

“This necessary process will commence immediately, and the board is committed to ensuring it is as quick and efficient as possible,” the statement said.

Mick Finnegan, the first alleged survivor to come forward publicly, said he was feeling “numb” at the news the independent investigation had been completed.

“I remain hopeful the board of St John Ambulance will publish Dr Shannon’s review. They can’t be allowed to sit on it or use ‘legal scrutiny’ as an excuse to delay this any further,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Seanad passed a cross-party motion calling for the report to be published by St John Ambulance without delay.

Speaking during the debate, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said “it is my expectation that St John Ambulance will ensure swift publication of the review report”.

He said officials from his department and Tusla had met to prepare for the publication of the report and to ensure supports were in place for existing or further alleged victims coming forward.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times