St John Ambulance to meet Minister over abuse controversy

Consideration for scoping inquiry into historical abuse to follow review of State records

 Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O Gorman  is to meet with officers from the organisation in the coming weeks.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Roderic O Gorman is to meet with officers from the organisation in the coming weeks. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is to meet with St John Ambulance to discuss recent revelations of historical child sexual abuse in the voluntary paramedic organisation, and its current child protection standards.

Sexual abuse allegations made against a former senior figure in the organisation were deemed to be founded following an investigation by Tusla, the child and family agency. Details of the past abuse, which took place in the 1990s, were first reported by The Irish Times in August.

Tusla is currently conducting a national review to establish if further incidents of alleged abuse within the organisation were reported to the agency in the past, with both the Department of Health and Department of Justice also reviewing their records.

Following this the Government is to give consideration to calls to set up a scoping inquiry into the historical abuse, Mr O’Gorman told the Seanad last month.

The Minister is to meet with officers from the organisation in the coming weeks to discuss the controversy. In a 28th October letter, Mr O’Gorman told the organisation’s commissioner John Hughes he wished to meet to discuss the past abuse, and current safeguarding standards.

“In light of my recent appearance before the Seanad and questions relating to the possibility of a scoping inquiry into allegations of historic child sexual abuse in St John Ambulance, I would like to invite you to meet to discuss the issues raised,” he said.

“Since I have come to office concerns regarding historical child abuse in St John Ambulance have been brought to my attention from a variety of sources,” Mr O’Gorman wrote.

“As you will be aware, this department and Tusla’s interest in this issue relates to the safety of children currently,” he said.

Mr Hughes is a senior civil servant in the Department of Business, and has led the organisation for the last number of years. It is understood St John Ambulance has agreed to meet with the Minister, but a date has not yet been set.

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane has called for an inquiry into the historical abuse, which she said appeared to have been an “open secret” in the organisation, where “everybody knew, but nobody knew”.

The perpetrator, who is still alive and cannot be named for legal reasons, was a member of the voluntary organisation from the 1950s until at least 2000, and left under pressure to resign.

The man operated in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin. One of the survivors, Mick Finnegan, reported the abuse to the organisation in the late 1990s. Three survivors are now taking civil cases against both the abuser and St John Ambulance.

Gardaí previously investigated the matter based on the three complainants, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided against pursuing a criminal case.

St John Ambulance has defended its current child protection standards, while stating it cannot comment on the past abuse due to the ongoing legal case.