Scouting Ireland inquiry to identify if any current members covered up abuse
Organisation to deal with members implicated in concealment in ‘very serious way’
The review is being led by child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott, above. Minister for Children Katherine Zappone remains confident Mr Elliot “will use his safeguarding expertise and role in Scouting Ireland to get to the bottom of this”, a department spokesman says
Scouting Ireland is planning to conduct an inquiry to identify if any current members still in the organisation previously covered-up alleged child sex abuse in legacy scouting bodies.
Aisling Kelly, chair of the organisation’s new board, told a private meeting of senior volunteers on Monday night that if anyone was implicated in concealing historic abuse, they would be dealt with.
The task would likely require external “people coming into the organisation” to carry out the work on behalf of Scouting Ireland, she said. The investigation into incidences of any past abuse cover-ups would be carried out “in a very serious way,” Ms Kelly said.
An ongoing internal review into past abuse has identified 317 alleged child abuse victims and 212 alleged abusers. The figures are expected to increase as more alleged victims continue to come forward.
The historic review is being led by child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott, and includes an audit of historic files, interviews and information from victims coming forward.
Scouting Ireland officials met members of An Garda Síochána and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in recent days to discuss the unfolding abuse scandal.
The majority of the alleged abuse occurred on dates between the 1960s and the 1990s, but some cases date back to the 1940s.
Scouting Ireland formed in 2004 following a merger of two legacy organisations – the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.
On Wednesday, The Irish Times reported that evidence from the past review pointed towards the conclusion that abuse had been “covered-up” and alleged perpetrators had been “protected” in past organisations.
Ms Kelly told the meeting on Monday a picture was emerging of “extensive, prolonged, and at times organised child sexual abuse” from the past organisations.
“It is a situation where people knew of and protected alleged abusers. It’s a situation where people allowed abusers to move from group to group,” Ms Kelly said.
If large numbers of alleged victims of child sex abuse decided to take legal cases against Scouting Ireland, the resulting costs would “sink the organisation”, Ms Kelly told the meeting on Monday.
In a statement, Scouting Ireland said it was “deeply sorry” that anyone who would have expected to be safe in the previous legacy organisations were not.
Reacting to the development, a spokesman for Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she was “shocked by media reports about an alleged cover-up and other events in scouting”.
Ms Zappone remained “confident that Ian Elliot will use his safeguarding expertise and role in Scouting Ireland to get to the bottom of this”, a department spokesman said.
The organisation’s board is due to meet on Saturday to discuss a range of financial measures to help Scouting Ireland meet the cost of providing support to victims who come forward. At present, counselling is being provided through a victims’ support scheme.
It is understood the board will discuss a potential emergency membership levy to raise funds, as well as the suspension of rebates given to local groups on annual membership fees paid to the national office.