Scouting Ireland's handling of a rape allegation was "influenced" by the accused male leader's connections "to people in positions of power in the organisation", safeguarding expert Ian Elliott recently told Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.
In a letter in late September, Mr Elliott, who conducted a detailed review into the handling of the rape allegation, told Ms Zappone he suspected information about how the case was dealt with had been withheld from him.
The allegation was made to Scouting Ireland in 2016, where a female volunteer claimed she was raped by an adult male volunteer during a camping trip in 2009, when she was 18.
Earlier this year The Irish Times revealed Mr Elliott’s confidential internal report had found the youth organisation’s response to the allegation had been “deeply flawed”.
In his recent letter to the Minister, Mr Elliott linked failings in how the allegation was dealt with to the accused’s connections to prominent figures in Scouting Ireland.
“I believed that the relationships that the subject of the allegation had with other people in positions of power in the organisation, influenced what the response was to the allegation made by the young woman,” he told Ms Zappone.
Mr Elliott’s report highlighted several failings in how the allegation was dealt with, but it did not directly tie these shortcomings to the accused’s influence in the organisation.
“The allegation was of a serious nature, but the way in which it was responded to by the organisation did not communicate to me any appreciation of this fact,” he told Ms Zappone. The letter did not identify who Mr Elliott deemed the individuals in “positions of power” to be.
At the time of completing his report Mr Elliott said he was unsure how “widespread” problems identified were throughout the organisation. “I have a fuller understanding now and I would hold concerns,” he said.
The correspondence from September 26th was released to The Irish Times following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Following the review of the case, Mr Elliott advised Scouting Ireland to conduct an audit of past child protection cases. Last week, Scouting Ireland revealed that an ongoing review by Mr Elliott into past abuse had identified 108 alleged victims of child sex abuse, and 71 alleged abusers, who were primarily active between the 1960s and 1980s.
Mr Elliott said "critical information" on how the 2016 rape allegation was dealt with had been withheld from him during his review of the case, including a meeting former chief scout Christy McCann had with the man accused of rape, while the volunteer was under suspension. The meeting had been arranged by chief commissioner for youth programmes David Shalloo.
“I could not be certain that all the conversations that had taken place in respect of how this case was responded to, were known to me,” Mr Elliott said. “I strongly suspected that there were others but that is speculation rather than known fact,” he told Ms Zappone.
Mr Elliott was writing to Ms Zappone after the former board of Scouting Ireland voted to reinstate Mr McCann to chair an extraordinary general meeting on governance reform in September. Following the board’s decision Ms Zappone suspended State funding to the organisation.
In his letter, Mr Elliott said there were several board members who had “consistently sought to obstruct change” and undermine efforts to reform the organisation.
Last month the organisation’s entire board resigned and was replaced, following which State funding was provisionally restored until April, pending continued progress on reforms.