Scouting Ireland members pass motion of no confidence in board

First woman and youngest person elected chief scout at AGM on Saturday

Adrian Tennant, chairman of the board, said Scouting Ireland had ‘waded through what seemed like crisis after crisis’ in recent years.

Adrian Tennant, chairman of the board, said Scouting Ireland had ‘waded through what seemed like crisis after crisis’ in recent years.

 

The membership of Scouting Ireland passed a motion signalling no confidence in the direction the current board had taken the organisation, at an annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday.

The no confidence motion was passed by 55 per cent in a vote, with those speaking in favour indicating the motion was not calling for the current board to step down, but to express dissatisfaction with its performance.

The youth organisation also elected a new chief scout, Jill Pitcher Farrell, a woman in her 20s and a current rover scout.

Ms Pitcher Farrell is the first woman and the youngest person to hold the role of elected head of the voluntary organisation. She was elected ahead of Damien Scanlon, a former national commissioner and retired garda.

The role had effectively been vacant for a number of years, as the previous chief scout, Christy McCann, had stepped aside in 2018 amid major controversy over the organisation’s flawed handling of a rape allegation.

Mr McCann and two other senior figures were expelled from the organisation earlier this year by the board, following an internal disciplinary process, on foot of the controversy.

The youth organisation’s AGM was held online, with delegates from each scout troop attending to vote on motions.

‘Negative voices’

Addressing the meeting, Adrian Tennant, chairman of the board, said Scouting Ireland had “waded through what seemed like crisis after crisis” in recent years.

Mr Tennant criticised the fact that the only remaining “negative voices” were currently coming from within the organisation.

He hit out at “the actions of a very small few,” who were unfairly critical of the organisation and the board, online and on social media.

“I appreciate most of you, like us, are sick of the constant negativity, proffered by these few,” he said. The actions of the cohort amounted to, at times, “bullying behaviour online,” he said.

Four fifths of delegates voted to support a motion which said the board had “repositioned” the organisation to one that was “staff-led,” and called for it to “revert to a volunteer-led, staff supported organisation without delay”.

A further motion passed called for the board to publish a breakdown of all legal costs incurred by the organisation in the last three years.

Martin Burbridge, a former chief scout, was among those elected to the organisation’s board, to fill one of three vacancies.

Mr Burbridge was previously one of several senior figures to sign an open letter, last December, calling for Mr McCann to be reinstated to his position as chief scout.

Apology

Some 100 per cent of delegates supported a motion to apologise unreservedly to those who suffered abuse while in scouting bodies. Previously, the board had issued an organisational apology to the victims of past child abuse.

The historical child sex abuse scandal mainly related to the organisation’s predecessor bodies, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland, which merged in 2004.

A report last year by child protection expert Ian Elliott concluded past child abuse had been “tolerated” at the highest levels of the former scouting bodies.

It found the crimes of known abusers had been covered up to protect the reputation of the movement. Scouting Ireland has identified more than 350 alleged survivors of historic child sex abuse, and 275 alleged perpetrators.