Six men sue Scouting Ireland over alleged abuse by its former leader

David O’Brien (69) previously said he had abused between 30 and 40 boys

Six men are currently taking legal cases against Scouting Ireland over alleged historical child abuse by convicted abuser David O'Brien, who previously told gardaí he had abused up to 40 children as a scout leader.

O'Brien (69) of Benburb Street, Dublin, has been convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys in the 1970s and 1980s. He is currently serving two prison sentences totalling 14 years, with three years suspended.

During an interview with gardaí in 2016, O’Brien estimated he had abused between 30 and 40 children as a scout leader, a court heard.

He was first jailed for 4½ years in October 2015 for sexually abusing six young boys on camping trips in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was jailed for a further 6½ years in 2019 for the abuse of another four boys.


During a sentencing hearing, it emerged one of the victims had made a criminal complaint to gardaí in 1996.

O’Brien was interviewed by gardaí in 1997 and said while he did not remember the specific abuse allegation, he did not deny it.


He told gardaí at the time of the abuse he was molesting several young boys in the scouts, and had been doing so for 10 years.

He said he had left one scout group after being confronted by a parent, but later joined another group where he continued to abuse children.

Following a Garda investigation a file was submitted to the State solicitor in 1997, but a decision was made not to pursue a prosecution.

During an interview with gardaí in 2016 as part of a new investigation, O’Brien estimated he had abused between 30 and 40 children as a scout leader.

At a Court of Appeal hearing last week a lawyer for O’Brien said he wanted gardaí to find the rest of his “many victims” so that he could “put an end to all of this”, as he could not remember their names.

Six men are currently taking civil cases against both O’Brien and Scouting Ireland over past abuse by the former leader, court records show.


Two of the civil cases were filed in 2016, one in 2019, two in 2020, and one to date this year. Coleman Legal Partners, who specialise in abuse cases, are representing the plaintiffs in three of the cases.

Scouting Ireland has in recent years been at the centre of a major child sex abuse scandal involving its predecessor bodies, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.

A report by child protection expert Ian Elliott, published in May 2020, concluded past child abuse had been "tolerated" at the highest levels of the 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.

Scouting Ireland previously said about 40 alleged abuse survivors were seeking to take legal cases against the youth organisation over the historic abuse.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times