Scouting Ireland raises membership fees to fund legal costs and abuse supports

Mason Hayes & Curran brought in to assess legal liability over abuse cases

Annual membership fees  will increase from €45 to €65 from this September, so the youth organisation “can survive”, Scouting Ireland members have been told

Annual membership fees will increase from €45 to €65 from this September, so the youth organisation “can survive”, Scouting Ireland members have been told

 

Scouting Ireland has increased membership fees by nearly 50 per cent to help pay legal fees and fund a support scheme for survivors of historic sexual abuse.

Annual membership fees for adults and juveniles will increase across the board from €45 to €65 from this September, so the youth organisation “can survive”, members have been told.

Scouting Ireland is facing a major historic child sex abuse scandal, with a review identifying 321 alleged victims, and 247 alleged perpetrators.

The alleged abuse took place between the 1960s and 1990s in legacy organisations, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland, which later merged to form Scouting Ireland in 2004.

The organisation is preparing to make an institutional apology over the past abuse, and has committed to fund counselling sessions for survivors.

Deliberation

In a recent letter to senior members and troop leaders, the organisation’s board said “difficult decisions” had to be taken due to the abuse scandal.

“The board, after much deliberation and advice from legal and accounting experts, have determined that certain measures must be put in place to safeguard the organisation so that it can continue to survive and grow,” the letter stated.

In the letter, the board said the fee increase was to provide for a historic child sex abuse fund, a victims’ support programme, and to ensure the organisation maintained an adequate cash reserve under company law requirements.

Efforts were being made to “reduce costs where possible in the administration and management of the organisation,” the board said.

It also said a new national fundraising event would also be run each year to help meet the extra costs.

Since the scandal emerged late last year, a number of High Court cases have been filed against Scouting Ireland from alleged abuse victims.

Scouting Ireland hired law firm Mason Hayes & Curran to assess the potential legal liabilities of the historic abuse. The firm reviewed the abuse files, and compiled a report for the organisation’s board.

‘Step too far’

Based on the firm’s assessment, the board took the view that Scouting Ireland is a going concern and can remain operational.

The organisation’s auditors are currently finalising the annual financial accounts, to include the estimated cost of meeting future liabilities. The accounts will then be presented to members for approval at an extraordinary general meeting later this year.

In a private Facebook group of Scouting Ireland volunteers, former board member Kieran McCann criticised the decision to increase members’ fees.

In a comment in the group, he said the move was a “step too far”.

Mr McCann, who is still a senior volunteer representing the northern region, said the increase would be “too much of an ask for some,” such as single parents who were “struggling to keep kids in Scouting”.