Alleged abuser had ‘access’ to people in youth and addiction services, Seanad hears

Individual had access to ‘vulnerable people’ in Dublin’s south west inner city, Lynn Ruane tells Upper House

A former senior figure who allegedly abused several children in St John Ambulance also had "full access" to individuals in Dublin youth projects and addiction services, Independent Senator Lynn Ruane has told the Seanad. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

A former senior figure who allegedly abused several children in St John Ambulance also had “full access” to individuals in Dublin youth projects and addiction services, the Seanad has heard.

Lynn Ruane, Independent Senator, said she was “terrified” to learn the alleged perpetrator at the centre of a historical child abuse investigation in St John Ambulance had been involved for years in community projects in Dublin 8 and Dublin 12.

An investigation by The Irish Times last year revealed several men had allegedly been sexually abused in the 1990s by the former senior figure in St John Ambulance.

The alleged abuser, a man now in his 80s, was a senior figure in the voluntary paramedic organisation’s Old Kilmainham division until at least 2000.

Tusla, the State child and family agency, previously investigated child abuse complaints against the man and determined the allegations to be founded.

Five men have now come forward disclosing they were allegedly sexually abused by the man.

Speaking in the Seanad on Tuesday, Ms Ruane said she had learned the individual had access to “vulnerable people” in Dublin’s south west inner city for decades.

“This person had full access to people in addiction and people in the youth sector across Dublin 12 and Dublin 8 for decades, recruiting and teaching first aid, the exact thing he used to groom people when they were cadets with St John Ambulance,” she said.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, a child law expert, has been commissioned by St John Ambulance to conduct an independent review into how the organisation handled past reports of child abuse.

The review is expected to be completed before the end of the year, and will include an examination of the organisation’s files, interviews with abuse survivors, as well as past and current volunteers.

Ms Ruane said the voluntary organisation had failed to properly advertise the ongoing review, and accused it of attempting to create “a silent investigation”.

The Senator called on the Department of Children, local TDs, and St John Ambulance, to find a way to publicise the review among communities and projects the alleged perpetrator had been involved with in Dublin 8 and Dublin 12.

“The department, but also St John Ambulance, should be looking at where this person had access to,” Ms Ruane said.

“I’ve held three meetings with three boards of management in those communities, and they are trying to figure out ways that they themselves can put this on the radar of people,” she said.

“We now need to find a way to contact the youth and community sector in those communities…A lot of them don’t use Twitter or read The Irish Times, so they’ve no idea that this investigation is happening,” she said.

However, there was a need to ensure supports were in place if further abuse survivors did come forward seeking help, she said.

“I think this is a real matter of urgency…St John Ambulance need to step up, and step up quick,” Ms Ruane said.

Anyone with information related to historical child abuse in St John Ambulance has been asked to contact Dr Geoffrey Shannon and the independent review at: g.shannon@stjohnambulancereview.ie