Scouting Ireland examiner told of members’ concerns
Scouting group’s members fear lack of consultation over proposed reforms, Dáil hears
The independent expert appointed to examine governance at Scouting Ireland has been informed of concerns by members of the organisation about a lack of consultation over proposed reforms. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The independent expert appointed to examine governance at Scouting Ireland has been informed of concerns by members of the organisation about a lack of consultation over proposed changes and reforms.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil on Wednesday that her officials had passed on communications about these concerns to the expert, Jillian van Turnhout, whose final report she expected to receive shortly.
Ms Zappone appointed Ms van Turnhout to assess Scouting Ireland’s governance arrangements, including plans for improvement in this regard, following an alleged sexual assault involving members of the scouting organisation and concerns about how it was handled by the group.
Ms Zappone has withdrawn State funding from the scouting body, which has some 40,000 members, until she is satisfied that its governance standards are compliant with the legal requirements of the 2015 Children First Act.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, she said that “I need to be satisfied that Scouting Ireland is taking the necessary steps to provide the reassurances”.
She said that when she received and had considered the examiner’s final report “I will make a decision about the restoration of funding.
“I cannot, I will not compromise on issues which impact on the safety of children.”
Letter to Minister
Labour TD Seán Sherlock had written to the Minister about the concerns of a number of Scouting Ireland members.
He said in the Dáil that “there are many good people within the organisation who feel that they have not been communicated to in relation to governance change management procedures that are under way, particularly in relation to proposed new national structures”.
He called on the Minister to communicate with Ms van Turnhout “with a view to hearing the reasonable, rational voices within Scouting Ireland about the concerns they have”.
Ms Zappone told Mr Sherlock she had asked her officials to pass on his letter to Ms van Turnhout, who should “take account of the contents of that and make her decisions in that regard in terms of your outlining those issues”.
Mr Sherlock said: “It is vitally important that the vast bulk of the ordinary members of Scouting Ireland – the people who go out there and volunteer – have confidence in the process that is under way.”
The Minister said it was her understanding that “there is ongoing communication between the members, the staff and the board”, something which is a “long and engaged process”.
But she said “some people may feel that they need to have more of a voice in relation to what is going on there” and Mr Sherlock’s letter had been passed to the assessor.