Belfast Telegraph

Government considering inquiry into abuse claims at Scouting organisations

The Government ‘will give careful consideration to the question of an appropriate statutory investigation’.

Scouting Ireland was formed in a merger in 2004 (Niall Carson/PA)
Scouting Ireland was formed in a merger in 2004 (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Government is considering a statutory inquiry into allegations of historical sexual abuse at Scouting organisations.

On Wednesday night, an RTE Investigates programme revealed former scouts who alleged they were abused while members of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scouting Association of Ireland have expressed concerns that Scouting Ireland has been allowed to carry out its own review of the complaints.

On Thursday morning, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs released a statement commending the “fortitude and bravery” of those who spoke about their experiences and the impact this continues to have on their lives.

“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,” a statement read.

Everybody involved in activities with children has a moral and legal responsibility to keep them safe Minister for Children Katherine Zappone

“The Minister (for Children Katherine Zappone) is very conscious of the need to ensure that no action taken now would prejudice any criminal investigation relating to these matters.”

Leader of the opposition Micheal Martin called for a statutory, independent and transparent inquiry during Leader’s Questions on Wednesday.

“It’s imperative that an inquiry be statutory, be independent and be transparent and made public, and shouldn’t be conducted by the organisation itself,” Mr Martin said.

“When it comes to matters of this nature and crimes against children of a sexual nature, an organisation investigating themselves is not adequate.”

The Taoiseach said he would discuss the matter with Minister Zappone and come to a decision in the near future.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Minister Zappone acknowledged clear failures to protect children in the organisations.

“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,” Minister Zappone said.

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)

“It demonstrates a serious failure in child protection and safeguarding 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.

“Everybody involved in activities with children has a moral and legal responsibility to keep them safe.

“Those that shared their stories on RTE Investigates were not given these protections and have carried the consequences with them into adulthood.

“The people who abused them are guilty of a heinous crime. Those who should have safeguarded and protected them from the abusers also bear guilt.”

Scouting Ireland, which was formed in a merger of the two groups in 2004, states in its historic review that some perpetrators moved from one location to another, and in one case between two different organisations.

The minister added that she has been assured by progress with safeguarding in Scouting Ireland, and recommendations set out in the independent review of the organisation in June 2018 have been implemented.

The Government also said Scouting Ireland is “very close” to full completion of the actions agreed with Tusla in March 2019.

PA

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