Yesterday evening we witnessed the distressing first hand testimony of survivors of abuse on the RTÉ Investigates programme, Scouts DisHonour. Minister Zappone commends the fortitude and bravery of those who spoke about their harrowing experiences and the impact this continues to have on their lives.
This is confirmation of instances of the abuse of children and a clear failure to keep them safe while in the care of Scouting organisations in Ireland. It demonstrates a serious failure in child protection and safe-guarding of children by these organisations at the time.
The historical failure in governance which facilitated abusers to carry out their despicable crimes against children depicts a culture and behaviour that at times placed more value on the organisation than the children it purported to benefit.
This historical failure cannot be repeated. The Minister has been assured by progress with safeguarding in Scouting Ireland. The recommendations set out in the independent review of Senator Jillian van Turnhout in June 2018 have been implemented in full. In addition, Scouting Ireland are very close to full completion of the actions agreed with Tusla in March 2019.
Minister Zappone has extended funding for Scouting Ireland until April 2020. This will allow her and her officials to consider the Review of Historical Sexual Abuse, which is being prepared by safeguarding consultant Ian Elliott, which is due to be completed in February 2020.
The government will give careful consideration to the question of an appropriate statutory investigation and will take a decision as soon as possible on the best way to proceed. The Minister is very conscious of the need to ensure that no action taken now would prejudice any criminal investigation relating to these matters.
The Minister said:
With due regard to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs’ duty of care regarding the public funding provided by her department, she decided in April 2018 to withhold any further funding to Scouting Ireland until such time as she could be satisfied that the organisation’s governance standards were up to the required level.
The Minister commissioned Jillian van Turnhout to carry out a full governance review of Scouting Ireland. Ms. Van Turnhout submitted her completed review in June 2018. Following a commitment by Scouting Ireland to implement fully the recommendations in said review the Minister restored funding from July to end September 2018.
Ian Elliott’s current work is to prepare a report into historical child sexual abuse in scouting in Ireland. His report is to set out the evidence which has emerged in recent times, the actions taken by the organisations at the time (CBSI and SAI), and the learnings for Scouting Ireland as it seeks to continuously improve its safeguarding. Neither Mr Elliott or Scouting Ireland are collecting evidence in relation to individual cases. Scouting Ireland have confirmed that all such evidence and records have been supplied to the relevant authorities for investigation, that is An Garda Síochána and Tusla.
On 22 September 2018 the then Board of Scouting Ireland voted to reinstate the Chief Scout as Chair of the forthcoming EGM. The interim Chair, Ms Annette Byrne and the safeguarding consultant, Mr Ian Elliott, both wrote to the Minister expressing their lack of confidence in the then board. The Minister announced on 27 September that Scouting Ireland’s funding would remain suspended until such time as the then Board was fully replaced.
On 6 October the entire Board stepped down following the EGM and the newly elected Board took over. Meetings took place with the new Chair and the CEO and the Minister wrote to Scouting Ireland on 30 October advising that funding would be restored until the end of April 2019. A full progress report on the implementation of the Jillian van Turnhout recommendations was requested for the end of March 2019.
February 2019 – the department received a copy of a letter written by Tusla to the CEO of Scouting Ireland raising certain concerns.
March 2019 - a meeting was held between Tusla and Scouting Ireland, the outcome of which was an agreed Action Plan to address the concerns raised by Tusla.
March 2019 - Scouting Ireland furnished the Minister with a full progress report. This included several appendices on safeguarding policies, governance in general, the appointment of the safeguarding manager and the engagement with Tusla. This report was reviewed by officials and the Minister decided to continue to fund Scouting Ireland to the end of 2019 pending a final report from them before the end of October 2019.
November 2019 - Minister Zappone met with Scouting Ireland on 6 November to get a safeguarding and governance update, and subsequently confirmed continuation of funding until the end of April 2020.