Parents disappointed at cancellation of scout trip after Tusla warning

Overnight trip to a hostel for Rathgar scout troop cancelled at ‘last minute’ on Friday

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Parents of children due to go on a scouting trip to Wicklow last weekend were disappointed and angry after it was cancelled at short notice, following national controversy around safeguarding standards at Scouting Ireland.

Tusla, the State child and family agency, raised concerns around supervision standards on overnight trips, and the youth organisation’s compliance with child-protection legislation.

The 32nd Rathgar troop in Dublin 6 was due to bring a group of scouts, aged 12-15, to stay in a Co Wicklow hostel, for the weekend. The trip, which was to include a long hike, was cancelled at the “last minute” on Friday.

Last week, Scouting Ireland was again at the centre of controversy over child protection standards, after current practices and policies were sharply criticised by Tusla. The State agency made a series of urgent recommendations in a recent letter to Scouting Ireland chief executive Dr John Lawlor, including suggestions that the organisation should consider the “viability” of continuing overnight trips.

On Wednesday, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone informed the Dáil of Tusla’s concerns. These are separate to a major historic abuse scandal facing the youth organisation, with an internal review identifying 313 alleged abuse victims, and 237 alleged perpetrators, the alleged abuse related to former legacy scouting organisations.

On Friday evening, leaders in the all-boys Rathgar scout troop took the decision to cancel the overnight hostel trip planned for the weekend.

The decision was taken as leaders wanted to contact each parent in the group, to address any concerns about standards at the national level of the organisation, before any overnight trips took place. There was no safeguarding concern in relation to the hostel trip itself.

The trip had to be cancelled “at the last minute” on Friday, as not all parents could be contacted at short notice, according to a leader in the Rathgar troop who did not wish to be named.

George Miller, from Rathgar, was one parent whose 14-year-old son was due to go on the weekend hostel trip. Following the news of the cancellation, his son was “livid and disappointed”, Mr Miller said.

The reaction of parents, in a phone messaging group chat, had gone from “disappointed to furious,” he said. There was significant anger at Ms Zappone, for her decision to announce Tusla’s concerns to the Dáil, Mr Miller said. “It was a publicity stunt that you might expect of a backbench TD in their first Dáil term,” he said.

Parents of children involved in the scout troop had absolute confidence in their local leaders and volunteers,” he said. “We know and trust the leaders, we trust the system.”

Athlone

A separate camping trip for about 450 scouts went ahead over the weekend, in Portlick, outside of Athlone, Co Westmeath. The camp was organised to prepare scouts for a world jamboree taking place this July, in West Virginia, United States.

Scouting Ireland has defended its current child protection policies and practices, with the organisation’s interim safeguarding manager Ian Elliott stating he had not seen any issues to “justify” the level of concern from Tusla.

The organisation said it did not have figures for the overall number of trips that took place over the weekend, or the figures for the number cancelled, as these details would be held at local levels. However, it was estimated that several dozen overnight trips would likely have taken place.