Scouting Ireland board member steps down two weeks after election to role

Martin Burbridge stepping down to focus on ‘health and retirement’

Martin Burbridge has stepped down. File photograph: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

Martin Burbridge has stepped down. File photograph: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

 

A high-profile board member of Scouting Ireland has stepped down as a director two weeks after his election to the role.

Martin Burbridge, one of the youth organisation’s newly elected board members, stated he was stepping aside “for my own sake and that of my family.”

He was one of three board members elected at an annual general meeting (AGM) late last month. At the same meeting, the organisation’s membership passed a vote of no confidence in the direction the board had taken the organisation in recent years.

The organisation has been at the centre of a number of scandals in the last three years, including major revelations of historical child sex abuse in legacy scouting bodies.

In a June 4th letter to the chair of the board, Pat Kidney, Mr Burbridge told him he would not be able to take up the board role, following his election on May 22nd.

He said he had been “seriously considering” withdrawing from the election race since it began in February.

“I persisted in the hope and belief that, if elected, I would feel differently, and would be able to continue to serve our members,” he wrote.

The youth organisation faced “daunting” challenges, and would need to work “in concert and cohesively” if the movement was to survive, he wrote.

Mr Burbridge said he wished to apologise to Scouting Ireland’s members, for being unable to take up the board role.

“Having given the matter much thought I now believe I am no longer in a position to take on the role of a director of the board,” his letter stated.

“For my own sake and that of my family, I need to focus on my health and my retirement,” he wrote.

In an email to members on Friday, Mr Kidney announced Mr Burbridge’s decision to step down.

“Having met with Martin, I respect and understand his position,” he wrote. “On behalf of the membership, volunteers, staff and the board I wish Martin and his family the best in all their future endeavours,” he said.

Mr Burbridge was one of four signatories to an open letter last December, which called for then chief scout Christy McCann’s suspension from the role to be lifted.

Mr McCann was later expelled as a member of the organisation earlier this year, following a disciplinary process over senior volunteers’ flawed handling of a serious sexual assault allegation.

Mr Burbridge had served as chief scout of the youth organisation from 2004 to 2008.

He was also brought in to head Scouting Ireland’s “crisis management team”, at the start of the initial governance and safeguarding controversy in 2018.

He resigned from the position later that year, after then minister for children Katherine Zappone suspended the organisation’s State funding for a second time. The funding was later restored following further governance reforms.