Scouting Ireland called before committee to avoid ‘irreparable damage’

Essential concerns surrounding the operation and governance of Scouting Ireland be addressed at meeting

“The committee is of the view that any organisation which seeks the support of an Oireachtas committee to secure public funding should make itself available to address any legitimate concerns the members may have,” the letter said.

“The committee is of the view that any organisation which seeks the support of an Oireachtas committee to secure public funding should make itself available to address any legitimate concerns the members may have,” the letter said.

 

Scouting Ireland has been called to appear before an Oireachtas committee next week, to answer questions and avoid “irreparable damage” to public confidence in the organisation.

The Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs said it was “imperative” that Scouting Ireland chief executive Dr John Lawlor came before a public hearing, “to restore some public confidence in the organisation.”

Previously Dr Lawlor pulled out of an arranged committee appearance in late April, due to an ongoing investigation into the organisation’s handling of a rape allegation made in 2016.

On Thursday the committee wrote to Dr Lawlor calling on him to appear before a public hearing on May 9th. In the letter, seen by The Irish Times, the committee said “it is essential that the natural concerns surrounding the operation and governance of Scouting Ireland, resulting from recent events, be addressed.”

A confidential report by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott in January, found the handling of the 2016 allegation, concerning two adult leaders from a camping trip seven years previous, was “deeply flawed.”

A barrister-led investigation is taking place into the actions of four senior volunteers criticised in the handling of the case. The four volunteers have temporarily stepped aside pending the investigation’s outcome.

Interfere

The committee’s letter stated Oireachtas members “in no way wished to impede or interfere” with the internal investigation.

“It is of the view of the members that the Minister’s decision to withhold future funding from Scouting Ireland, and the fact the invitation to appear before the committee has not been accepted, is resulting in the reputation of the organisation being severely damaged,” the letter said.

“The committee is of the view that any organisation which seeks the support of an Oireachtas committee to secure public funding should make itself available to address any legitimate concerns the members may have,” the letter said.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone in April suspended public funding to Scouting Ireland, over governance concerns following the recent controversy. The organisation, which has 40,000 juvenile members, has funding reserves to last until June.

Committee chair, Alan Farrell TD, said he was confident Scouting Ireland would agree to appear before the committee next week.

Mr Farrell said he looked forward to questioning the organisation, and “afford them an opportunity to reassure parents and volunteers that Scouting Ireland is a safe organisation.”

Sean Sherlock TD, Labour Party spokesman for children, said a “veil of secrecy at the upper echelons of the scouting movement” was “undermining confidence” in the organisation across the country.

“Scout troops and parents throughout the country want to see transparency” he said. Scouting Ireland cannot “keep hiding” behind their internal investigation, and the committee “will pursue them on behalf of the taxpayer”, Mr Sherlock said.