Dysfunctional culture led to failings at scout body

Scouting Ireland’s funding restored for three months following reform commitment

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone appointed Jillian van Turnhout to review the governance of Scouting Ireland in May. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone appointed Jillian van Turnhout to review the governance of Scouting Ireland in May. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A “dysfunctional” culture, a lack of transparency and a “deep distrust” between staff and the board of volunteers led to safeguarding failings in Scouting Ireland, an expert report has said.

An independent report by former senator Jillian van Turnhout found a culture of “blind loyalty” to figures within the senior ranks of Scouting Ireland, which led to decisions being made that were not in the “best interests” of the organisation.

In May, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone appointed Ms van Turnhout to review the governance of the voluntary organisation.

Several issues within the organisation raised “serious” safeguarding concerns, Ms van Turnhout said. When it came to handling allegations, there was a perception that members were treated differently “depending on their status”.

There was a lack of trust in the organisation to handle complaints, her report said.

The controversy began over the organisation’s handling of a rape allegation made in 2016, concerning two adult leaders from an incident in 2009. Last January a confidential review by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott found the handling of the allegation was “deeply flawed”.

Withheld

State funding worth €438,169 was withheld from the organisation by Ms Zappone in April, over the controversy.

Yesterday Ms Zappone announced she was releasing €220,000, three months worth of funding, following a commitment from Scouting Ireland to introduce the recommendations from Ms van Turnhout.

There was a lack of transparency around how the top tier of the organisation operated, the van Turnhout report said. Board meeting minutes had not been circulated since January for fear of leaks, and the general membership was not kept regularly informed about decisions taken by the board.

On Sunday, the current board announced it would be stepping down effective in October, when a new board would be elected at an egm.

In her report, Ms van Turnhout said that in order to ensure a “fresh start” for the organisation it was “essential no member of the current board should seek re-election or reappointment”.