Independent review ordered into Scouting Ireland governance following board split

Bitter row within board of youth organisation worsens as Department of Children commissions review

An independent review has been commissioned to examine the governance at the top of Scouting Ireland, following a bitter schism within the youth organisation’s board.

The Department of Children is currently drawing up terms of reference for a review into the voluntary organisation, with an independent figure due to be selected to undertake the work in the coming weeks.

Recent years have seen the youth organisation face a number of governance and safeguarding controversies, which culminated in revelations of a major historical child sexual abuse scandal.

The organisation has been in the spotlight again following a split in its current board. Two board members, Donnachadha Reynolds and Jacques Kinane, alleged the “integrity” of child protection standards in the organisation were in “jeopardy” due to infighting among directors.


They claimed concerns raised about the handling of the membership status of a volunteer, who was later convicted of abusing children, had not been appropriately investigated.

The pair, who joined the board in September 2022, said their access to information as directors had been limited, and that decisions were being made by a “board within a board”. The claims were laid out in a November 7th document sent to the board, which Scouting Ireland passed to department officials, who have been examining the allegations since then.

In a statement, the department said it now intends “to carry out a review of governance and other issues in Scouting Ireland, in response to concerns raised by a number of board members”.

“The terms of reference of the review are currently being finalised. An independent reviewer will be appointed in the coming weeks,” it said.

Scouting Ireland was “committed to good corporate governance” and had a policy to conduct a review of its board every three years, with a “leading governance expert” currently undertaking such a review, a spokeswoman for the organisation said. “Scouting Ireland will also co-operate fully with any review the department wishes to conduct on our governance structures,” the spokeswoman said.

The voluntary organisation previously said the claims made by the two board members were “without merit” and seemed “designed to undermine” work to reform the organisation.

In a February 2nd letter to the board, Mr Reynolds and Mr Kinane claimed they had been subjected to “retaliatory actions” for raising concerns as whistleblowers. They said statements the board had made to the media and grassroots members had damaged their good names. The letter, later published online by Mr Kinane, told the board the current turmoil facing the organisation was “a crisis of your own making”.

Mr Reynolds has been suspended from the organisation since the middle of last year, following a clash with Joe Marken, Scouting Ireland’s interim chief executive, during a board meeting in June.

Scouting Ireland reported an income of €4.6 million in 2022, with €1.5 million of that funding coming from the department, latest accounts show.

State funding to the organisation was twice suspended in 2018 in the fallout of controversy over the flawed handling of a serious sexual assault allegation concerning two young adult leaders. Funding was only restored after the organisation’s entire board was replaced as part of a wider overhaul of its governance.

During that controversy it emerged more than 350 children had been sexually abused in legacy bodies, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland, with the abuse mainly taking place between the 1960s and 1990s.

A 2020 report by child protection expert Ian Elliott concluded the sexual abuse of children was tolerated at the highest levels of the former bodies and covered up for decades.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times