Reforms of Scouting Ireland’s governance ‘satisfactory’ - report

Organisation has been at the centre of major governance and safeguarding controversies

Anne Griffin, Scouting Ireland chief executive, said the youth organisation was ‘greatly encouraged’ by the conclusions of the McManus report. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Anne Griffin, Scouting Ireland chief executive, said the youth organisation was ‘greatly encouraged’ by the conclusions of the McManus report. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Governance reforms in Scouting Ireland introduced on foot of a highly critical report have been “implemented satisfactorily”, according to a review commissioned by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

A “dysfunctional” culture in the youth organisation and lack of transparency had led to previous safeguarding failings, a report by former senator Jillian van Turnhout concluded in June 2018.

Ms van Turnhout’s report made a series of recommendations for the reform of the organisation, which has also been dealing with a major historic child sex abuse scandal.

Brigid McManus, former Department of Education secretary general, was commissioned by Ms Zappone to examine if promised reforms had been followed through on. Reforms included changes to the make-up of the organisation’s board, such as appointing independent directors.

Ms McManus found the recommendations had been “implemented satisfactorily” and Scouting Ireland had completed “significant work” in improving its governance.

The new board had “delivering significant changes” to the governance and structure of the organisation, Ms McManus said.

Safeguarding issues in Scouting Ireland were first brought to light in early 2018 when The Irish Times reported the details of a confidential review that found the organisation’s handling of a rape allegation was “deeply flawed”.

The ensuing controversy led to the organisation twice having its State funding suspended by Ms Zappone over governance concerns. It has also been dealing with the fallout of a historic child sex abuse scandal, with over 400 allegations of abuse that took place in legacy scouting bodies from the 1940s to 1990s.

There were a number of outstanding issues to be resolved by the youth organisation, Ms McManus said.

The relationship between Scouting Ireland and trust companies which held properties such as scouts dens and national camping centres was “unclear”, the report said.

The “lack of clarity is very undesirable from a governance perspective and needs to be resolved”, it said.

Scouting Ireland has committed to an external review of its current safeguarding practices at the end of this year, which Ms McManus recommended be shared with the Department of Children.

The report recommended Scouting Ireland provide the department with an update on the status of outstanding reforms in six months time.

In a statement, Ms Zappone said she welcomed the independent assurance that governance and safeguarding issues at Scouting Ireland “are now largely addressed”.

Anne Griffin, Scouting Ireland chief executive, said the youth organisation was “greatly encouraged” by the conclusions of the McManus report.

“Transforming governance in our organisation over the past two years has not been without its challenges but it is necessary and has strengthened Scouting Ireland for the future,” Ms Griffin said.

“We are also collaborating with State agencies and have established good working relations with Tusla, An Garda Síochána, Gateway and the PSNI.”