Scouting Ireland: the need for transparency
Parental trust is an indispensable element within any organisation that caters for children
The handling of a rape allegation in Scouting Ireland has been described as “deeply flawed” in an internal review conducted by Ian Elliott, who investigated child abuse cases within Catholic dioceses and religious orders. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The handling of a rape allegation involving a young female volunteer in Scouting Ireland has been described as “deeply flawed” in an internal review conducted by Ian Elliott, who investigated child abuse cases within Catholic dioceses and religious orders. This finding, along with criticism of a number of senior management volunteers, has convulsed the organisation, brought calls for resignations and a suggestion that Government funding should be withheld pending a review.
Parental trust is an indispensable element within any organisation that caters for children. Any lack of rigour in enforcing child protection protocols threatens disaster. In its favour, Scouting Ireland invited Mr Elliot to review and pronounce on its handling of a number of cases. But when his report criticised the actions of senior volunteers, it was rejected as an unwarranted attack; wagons were circled and the subsequent publication of details in The Irish Times was described as “a betrayal and a breach of trust”. Ireland has had a sad history with organisations such as the Catholic Church who have been too slow to accept the existence of problems within their ranks and who lost much hard-won trust in the process. Scouting Ireland should not make the same mistake
Large voluntary organisations tend to develop tensions specific to their structure. Tensions arise between paid executives and volunteers. Scouting Ireland is no different. Following a Garda investigation into the rape allegation that involved a fundamental disagreement on whether sex had been consensual, the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to press charges. This, along with threats of litigation by the accused, appeared to contribute to a succession of actions within Scouting Ireland that favoured the accused.
Serious questions arise about information-sharing at board level; the ability of management to implement agreed safeguarding policies and unorthodox lobbying on behalf of the accused. Efforts are now being made to prevent debate on these issues during tomorrow’s annual conference. Transparency and accountability are required.