28/09/2018

Minister For Children Expresses 'Grave Concerns' Over Scouting Ireland

Scouting Ireland will receive no state funding "for as long as the current Board of Directors remains in place" amid concerns of their handling of a rape allegation.

Earlier this year a female Scout leader alleged that she had been raped by a male Scout leader while on a scouting trip seven years earlier when she was 18.

According to reports, the man at the centre of the allegations was initially suspended from the organisation while an investigation was carried. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute the man and he was subsequently reinstated with Scouting Ireland. It is understood that he was reinstated without being vetted, despite a recommendation by Gardaí.

Suspending all funding, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, said that she was "very concerned" about the current situation at Scouting Ireland.

She said: "I have decided today that funding of Scouting Ireland will be suspended for as long as the current Board of Directors remains in place.

"I was very concerned to learn of recent events, particularly the vote taken at the Board meeting on Saturday 22nd September to reinstate Chief Scout Christy McCann as Chair of the forthcoming EGM on October 6th.

"I have since received correspondence from the interim Chair of the Board, Annette Byrne and also from Mr Ian Elliott, child safeguarding expert, which caused me grave concern indeed. The interim Chair has indicated that she can no longer stand behind assurances previously given to me with regard to the delivery of future change essential to ensure the robust governance of the organisation. Indeed she has indicated that, based on the decision taken last Saturday, she cannot have confidence in the current Board to act impartially when the current independent investigation is completed.

"Mr Elliott, who has worked in the area of child safeguarding for more than four decades, was appalled by last Saturday's decision and it reinforced for him the view that there are Directors who have consistently sought to obstruct essential change within the organisation. Mr Elliott pointed out his strong view that bad governance generates risk to young people. As Minister I cannot accept such a situation. It is plainly wrong that any publicly funded youth organisation would be led by Directors who do not put the interests and safety of young people to the fore.

"Both Mr Elliott and Ms Byrne have assured me that the vast majority of volunteers involved in Scouting Ireland do an excellent job and are utterly committed to the safeguarding of scouts. Let me reassure parents that the actions I am taking today stem from bad governance and are in no way connected to the fantastic work being carried out by Scout groups and Scout leaders and volunteers throughout the country. I have been assured that they are committed to and compliant with the highest possible level of safeguarding standards.

"I wish to acknowledge my strong support of Annette Byrne in her role as Treasurer and Acting Chair and her absolute commitment to the essential governance changes required, and Mr Ian Elliott whose guidance of the organisation in developing the strongest safeguarding policies possible has been and continues to be invaluable."

Minister Zappone said that this was a "crucial moment" for Scouting Ireland and urged its Directors to "do the right thing for the future of the organisation and for the future of scouting in this country and to serve the best interests of young people".

(MH/CM)

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