Scouting Ireland funding is restored for six months

Government restores grants on condition the organisation reforms child protection rules

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has twice suspended Scouting Ireland’s €900,000 worth of State grants this year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has twice suspended Scouting Ireland’s €900,000 worth of State grants this year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government has restored funding for Scouting Ireland for six months, but only on condition that the organisation fully reforms its child protection rules.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has twice suspended the youth organisation’s €900,000 worth of State grants this year, which makes up a third of the organisation’s income.

The withdrawal of State grants for several months pushed the organisation to the brink of financial collapse, with the association facing the likelihood of dissolving if funding was not restored.

In January, a confidential report by child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott found Scouting Ireland’s handling of an allegation in 2016 from a woman who claimed she was raped on a 2009 camping trip when she was 18 was “deeply flawed”. The report also highlighted shortcomings with child protection standards in the organisation. The organisation’s grant was suspended in April on foot of disclosures about the controversy.

However, in June, Ms Zappone released €220,000 after she received commitments that changes would be made. However, funding was suspended again this autumn, after the organisation’s board voted for chief scout Christy McCann to chair an extraordinary general meeting (egm) on governance reform.

Stood down

Mr McCann was one of four senior volunteers who temporarily stood down in April amid controversy, following criticism in Mr Elliott’s report.

In a statement to members, Scouting Ireland’s board announced Ms Zappone had decided to conditionally restore funding this week, up until the end of April next year.

The entire board was replaced following a vote at the egm in October. An overhaul of the organisation’s governance structure was also approved by a large majority at the meeting.

The new board said the organisation was required to provide Ms Zappone with a report on its progress implementing reforms at the end of March.

Recent months “have proved to be challenging times for Scouting Ireland,” the statement from the board said.

‘Trust lost’

The board committed to “do our best to re-establish any trust lost” in the organisation over the scandal.

The organisation has 40,000 juvenile members, 13,500 adult volunteers, and over 30 professional staff members.

An independent barrister’s report into the actions of the four senior volunteers criticised in Mr Elliott’s review of the rape allegation has faced considerable delays.

Lorna Lynch BL was appointed to conduct the report, which was initially expected to be completed by late May, but is still ongoing.

One senior source said the report’s completion was believed to be “imminent”, but as the process was independent there was no definite deadline.