Micheal Martin has called for a statutory, independent and transparent inquiry into allegations of historic sexual abuse in Scouting organisations.
An RTE programme, due to be broadcast on Wednesday night, reveals 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.
“It takes an extraordinary degree of resilience, courage, and dignity to survive and to cope with the lifelong challenges that that trauma imposes,” opposition leader Mr Martin said during leaders questions.
“Unfortunately, in this country, we’ve witnessed a terrible history of child sexual abuse in Ireland. Within many institutions and within many families.
“That is why there’s a fundamental moral obligation to protect and respond resolutely and transparently to allegations of child abuse within national organisations.”
When it comes to matters of this nature and crimes against children of a sexual nature, an organisation investigating themselves is not adequateMicheal Martin
Mr Martin said 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, using the example of a former scout leader, who is now a convicted sex offender and abused up to 60 young boys.
“It’s clear files went missing. It took years and years for Scouting Ireland to commence this investigation,” Mr Martin added.
“They do confirm that there’s indications in their own internal review of extensive, prolonged and organised child sexual abuse.
“I’m asking you to give a commitment now that the government would have to establish a statutory, independent inquiry.
“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.
“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 replied that crimes against children are among the most heinous, and those in a sexual nature against children are particularly unspeakable.
“The government has been aware of these issues for some time, and has been engaging with Scouting Ireland to ensure that their current child protection safeguarding policies are fit for purpose, and are greatly enhanced from those in forbear organisations among those which you mentioned,” he said.
“Everything continues to be done to ensure that the many thousands of children who attend scouts around the country are safe protected and free to enjoy themselves.
“We need to bear in mind that this is abuse that occurred in the 70s and 80s by organisations that no longer exist.
“There may be other investigations under way. Garda investigation, for example, because these are crimes and crimes that can be prosecuted.
“These organisations been replaced by a different organisation now called Scouting Ireland and (Children’s) Minister (Katherine) Zappone has commissioned a review of governance and safeguarding in Scouting Ireland, and she has made a number of recommendations that have now been implemented.
“But I will certainly take what you said on board.
“I will discuss the Minister Zappone and we will come to a decision in the near future, as to what the best way to proceed is, and that may well be such investigation.”