Zappone orders second review of Scouting Ireland operations

Minister wants to establish if organisation ‘comprehensively’ implemented changes

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has ordered a second review of Scouting Ireland operations , the Dáil has heard.

She expects to receive the report in the new year.

She has asked former Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who last year carried out an external governance review, to examine if the scouting body had comprehensively implemented the recommendations in the original review.

That report, completed in June 2018, set out a pathway for Scouting Ireland to address the “shocking deficits in the organisation”, Ms Zappone said.

She was speaking in the Dáil as she updated the House on ongoing efforts by Scouting Ireland to improve its governance and child protection standards following a major historic child sex abuse scandal linked to its predecessor organisations, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.

Ms Zappone said she received regular updates from the executive board of the organisation and these reports were very carefully scrutinised and questioned.

The Minister said that last month Scouting Ireland told her it had implemented all recommendations in full in the original review conducted by Ms van Turnhout.

Ms Zappone said she had asked Ms van Turnhout “to examine if this has been done comprehensively and she will report back on this early in the new year”.

The Minister said Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. had told her they are satisfied with their engagement with Scouting Ireland. “This assurance is critical and will be critical into the future.”

She also told the House that child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott is expected to deliver a final review report in February, following his investigation of the abuse scandal.

State funding

State funding of Scouting Ireland continues until April next year and the Minister said that “restoration of funding after then will be dependent on certain developments”.

She had previously cancelled funding because of the governance arrangements up to October 2018, which she described as “dysfunctional and blinkered” and because board members failed in their duty to respond allegations of abuse by senior volunteers.

The Minister also said senior members of the organisation responded inappropriately to media reports of serious allegations of abuse.

In reference to an RTÉ Investigates documentary on the scandal,Scouts Dishonour, Ms Zappone said that those who shared their stories of abuse were not given the protections that they should have expected, and have carried the consequences with them into adulthood.

“The people who abused them are guilty of a heinous crime. Those who should have safeguarded and protected them from the abusers also bear guilt,” she said.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte said the failures involved were current and not legacy issues.

She said the RTÉ programme highlighted an alleged abuser who was reported in the 1980s and 1990s but was only removed from Scouting Ireland in 2018.

“That is a current failure; not a historical one,” she said.

Ms Rabbitte said the Scouting Ireland review of 2012 found no volunteers active at that time were named in the legacy files but RTÉ found an alleged abused continued to work there.

The organisation had a breakdown of 401 files which had all been reported to the appropriate authorities and that was reassuring, Ms Rabbitte said.

“Some 321 of them involved alleged adult-on-youth abuse. All of them have been reported to the appropriate authorities. Some 247 alleged perpetrators were identified.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times