Varadkar has ‘no objection’ to Dáil debate on St John Ambulance report

Taoiseach acknowledges distress caused to abuse survivors by publication of findings

The Government has no objection to having a Dáil debate on the St John Ambulance report, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said he was conscious of the distress its contents would have caused survivors and the “appropriate first step” was for Tusla to come before the Oireachtas Children’s Committee.

An independent investigation by Dr Geoffrey Shannon SC into the voluntary first aid organisation, published last Thursday, detailed serious failings in how it responded to alleged child abuse in the past, as well as concerns with current practices.

A former senior officer in its Old Kilmainham division in Dublin is alleged to have sexually abused more than 15 boys in the organisation, between the late 1960s and late 1990s.


The report found there was a “significant degree of organisational awareness” of the dangers posed by the alleged perpetrator at the time.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews said the report makes for “bleak” reading.

“St John Ambulance put the reputation of their organisation ahead of vulnerable young children,” Mr Andrews said. “The report probably wouldn’t have been carried out and published if it wasn’t for the survivors like Mick Finnegan and the many other survivors.

“The board should step down with an independent administrator taking charge and there are serious questions also for Tusla and for the Minister [for Children Roderic O’Gorman] to answer and I’d ask that the Minister comes into the house to make a statement on the matter and answer questions on the Shannon report.”

In response, Mr Varadkar said there was “no objection on this side of the House” to having debate on the report.

“It was only published last Thursday so the appropriate first step is for Tusla to come into the committee,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I understand that’s scheduled and perhaps we could discuss in the chamber thereafter but I think the first step is for Tusla to come into the committee and that’s the place to have a discussion with them about it.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times