Children were sexually abused by scout leaders on hikes in the woods, in tents on camping trips, and in local dens, according to statements from 30 alleged victims preparing to take legal action against Scouting Ireland.
Grooming was a common feature of the alleged abuse, with many perpetrators employing similar methods of singling children out for favourable treatment, before going on to molest them, according to the accounts.
"A lot of the time it would have happened in tents, sometimes it would have happened just out in the woods. It could happen in a car, in a minibus, in a scout hall – a lot of the kids were abused on multiple occasions," according to Daniel O'Connell, a solicitor representing 30 alleged abuse victims.
In some cases, alleged perpetrators would have children who misbehaved sleep in their tent at night, as a cover to molest the child, said Mr O’Connell.
Scouting Ireland is in the midst of a major historic child abuse scandal, and an ongoing internal review led by safeguarding expert Ian Elliott has identified 313 alleged victims, and 237 alleged abusers. The majority of abuse allegations relate to a period between the 1960s and 1990s.
A similar pattern of how alleged perpetrators would attempt to groom children emerged from many of the 30 alleged victims’ accounts.
Children would be told “you’ve been very good today, so you get an extra badge ... Everyone else does jobs, you don’t need to do jobs,” Mr O’Connell said. “The child would trust that person, and then they would violate that in the most disgusting way.”
Scouting Ireland formed in 2004, following a merger of two legacy organisations, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.
There is major concern inside the youth organisation that a large number of legal cases from alleged abuse victims could force a fire-sale of assets such as scout dens, or potentially collapse the organisation.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone recently committed to increase the organisation's State funding to ensure its current child protection office is properly resourced.