Scouting Ireland head seeks re-election despite resignation call

Crisis management group advised Christy McCann and two senior leaders to step down

Chief scout Christy McCann: Scouting Ireland’s handling of a rape allegation from a camping trip in 2009 was “deeply flawed”, says a crisis management group.

Chief scout Christy McCann: Scouting Ireland’s handling of a rape allegation from a camping trip in 2009 was “deeply flawed”, says a crisis management group.

 

The head of Scouting Ireland is standing for re-election this week despite calls from a high-level internal group for him to step down over the organisation’s handling of a rape allegation.

Chief scout Christy McCann, whose resignation was called for by Scouting Ireland’s crisis management group, is running unopposed for a second term as head of the organisation’s 50,000-strong membership. He is one of three senior volunteers who should step down from their elected positions, the crisis management group has told Scouting Ireland’s board.

However, board members voted not to accept his resignation at a recent meeting, despite this recommendation, and no further action has been taken on the matter.

The crisis management group, which includes board directors, professional staff and legal advisers, was constituted in response to a report by child safety expert Ian Elliott. As previously reported by The Irish Times, it found Scouting Ireland’s handling of a rape allegation from a camping trip in 2009 was “deeply flawed”.

At a board meeting on March 4th, Mr McCann, the elected head of the organisation, said he would be prepared to offer his resignation if the board sought it, but it decided by a 10 to three vote not to do so.

The three volunteers sit on the youth organisation’s management committee and board of directors. Scouting Ireland cannot properly deal with the Elliott report while the three members remain in their posts, the crisis group recommended.

Child protection standards

Mr Elliott also raised concerns about child protection standards within the organisation, though he pointed out that matters had improved during his six-month-long inquiry.

Following the rape allegation, the alleged offender was first asked to step aside as a leader, but was later suspended. He was readmitted after the Director of Public Prosecutions did not take a prosecution. The complainant, who was an 18-year-old female leader in 2009, made a formal disclosure in 2016.

Mr McCann failed to disclose a private meeting he held with the alleged offender in the case, who was suspended at the time. Mr McCann did not disclose the meeting to Mr Elliott, or to the board of directors, who discussed the subsequent report in detail at two meetings in January.

Board members were informed of the omission at the meeting on March 4th, and were also told David Shalloo, chief commissioner for youth programmes, had arranged the controversial meeting, sources said.

Mr Shalloo had previously declared a conflict of interest in the 2016 case, confidential board minutes from January show. Mr McCann and Mr Shalloo did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr McCann’s bid for a second term as chief scout comes before the national council on April 14th.

In a motion to the council, Shankill Dublin scout group says a responsibility should be placed on the board to ensure any professional staff dealing with child protection issues have “appropriate qualifications”.

Resignation recommendation

Another motion from Co Galway scout group calls for written reports of findings to be given to each party involved, when future safeguarding complaints are closed.

Responding to questions about the resignation recommendation, Scouting Ireland chief executive Dr John Lawlor said board meetings were confidential and he would not comment on individual issues.

An email sent to board members by national secretary Charles McGuinness said it was “clear” from The Irish Times’s query “an unauthorised disclosure” of confidential information had occurred.

In the email, obtained by The Irish Times, Mr McGuinness criticised leaks, saying that they were undermining the board’s “attempts to make Scouting Ireland safer for all our members”.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has received a requested copy of Mr Elliott’s report. Department of Children officials will meet Scouting Ireland to ensure adequate standards are in place “to protect the young people involved” in the organisation, said a spokeswoman.

Scouting Ireland has commissioned an independent investigation to look at several individuals’ actions in the handling of the sexual assault complaint.