Minister urges St John Ambulance abuse survivors to come forward

Review into how paramedic organisation handled past abuse claims is ongoing

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman urged survivors, or others with relevant knowledge or information, to engage with Dr Geoffrey Shannon. File photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman urged survivors, or others with relevant knowledge or information, to engage with Dr Geoffrey Shannon. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has urged survivors of historical child sex abuse in St John Ambulance to come forward and contact an ongoing independent review into past abuse in the voluntary paramedic organisation.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, a child law expert, is leading the review, which is examining how the organisation handled past reports of child abuse.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr O’Gorman sought to publicise the ongoing review, and encourage survivors, or others with knowledge or information, to engage with Dr Shannon.

“It has been brought to my attention that there may be individuals who are not aware of the review,” he said.

It was “vitally important” that the review was as “complete and comprehensive as possible,” he said.

“I would also encourage any person who has experienced abuse themselves, or has reason to believe that a child is at risk of abuse, to speak to Tusla, or the Gardaí,” he said.

St John Ambulance has been criticised by survivors, and Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, over its failure to more widely publicise the independent review, which it commissioned earlier this year.

Following the criticism, Mr O’Gorman wrote to the organisation in May, seeking details of how it planned to further advertise the ongoing review.

It is hoped the review will be completed by the end of the year, and will include an examination of the organisation’s files and interviews with survivors, as well as past and current volunteers. It is expected interviews with survivors and other volunteers may begin in September.

The review was commissioned following reports by The Irish Times last year, which revealed several men had allegedly been sexually abused in the 1990s, by a 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 several of the child abuse complaints against the man, and determined the allegations to be founded.

A number of further alleged survivors of abuse at the hands of the same man have since come forward, following the media coverage.

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