Scouting Ireland seek to hire fourth safeguarding manager in as many years

Current head of safeguarding leaving role after less than two years

Scouting Ireland is seeking to hire its fourth safeguarding manager in as many years, with the current manager leaving the position after less than two years in the key role.

The youth organisation, which faced a major historical child sexual abuse scandal in recent years, has had three different safeguarding managers since 2018.

The organisation announced the current head of safeguarding, Michael Lynch, had "regrettably" informed its board he could no longer continue in the role "due to a change in his personal circumstances".

Mr Lynch, a former garda and safeguarding consultant, had taken up the position in September 2020, and is to step down from the role this April.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Lynch said his decision to step down was due to family circumstances, and he remained confident with the organisation’s approach to safeguarding. “They’ve worked really hard to come back from what happened in recent years,” he said.

Mr Lynch added that during his time in the role he always got “great support” from both the chief executive and the board.

He had taken over the role from Gearóid Begley, a former senior garda, who was appointed to the job in April 2019. Prior to that child safeguarding expert Ian Elliott had held the position on an interim basis since 2018.

Flawed handling

Mr Elliott, who previously led child protection reforms in the Catholic Church, overhauled Scouting Ireland’s safeguarding policies and practices, following the organisation’s flawed handling of a serious alleged sexual assault, concerning two adult volunteers.

The organisation’s State funding was suspended on two occasions in 2018, over governance concerns about how the organisation was handling the fallout of the controversy.

Mr Elliott completed a report into historical child sex abuse in Scouting Ireland’s predecessor bodies in 2020. The report found sexual abuse had been tolerated at the highest levels of the legacy organisations, and covered-up for decades to protect the reputation of the scouting movement.

More than 350 alleged survivors of historical sex abuse were identified as part of the work, and 275 alleged perpetrators.

In a message to members, Scouting Ireland announced on Wednesday it was again seeking to recruit a new head of safeguarding. The message thanked Mr Lynch “for the valuable contribution he has made to Scouting Ireland”.

The youth organisation said it hoped a new safeguarding manager could be recruited to fill the role by the start of May.