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Scouting Ireland head to step aside amidst investigation into handling of alleged sexual assault

Speaking in the Dáil, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone re-confirmed her decision to withhold further funding to the organisation.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone
Image: Leah Farrell

SCOUTING IRELAND’S CHIEF scout is to step aside from his role this evening, pending the completion of an investigation into the organisation’s handling of an alleged sexual assault.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone announced that Scouting Ireland’s treasurer will serve as acting chair of the board in his absence.

Zappone added that she has decided to withhold any further drawdown of funding to Scouting Ireland until such time as she “can be satisfied the organisation’s governance standards are up to the required level”.

“As of now, I am not satisfied. I have a responsibility to children and I have a responsibility for the use of public money,” she said.

Zappone confirmed that she wrote to Scouting Ireland on Friday 13 April advising of her intention to withhold funding from the organisation.

“I will be meeting with Scouting Ireland this evening. That meeting will be with the chief executive officer, the current chief scout who chairs the board and the current treasurer,” she said.

Rape allegations

In February a report compiled by a child safety expert Ian Elliott raised serious concerns about Scouting Ireland’s handling of the rape allegation.

The man was suspended while the allegation was investigated by the gardaí but he was reinstated, and then promoted, when the Director of Public Prosecution did not proceed with the case.

In response to Elliott’s analysis, which was reported in The Irish Times, the organisation issued a statement on its website seeking to reassure its members that their safety “is, and always will be, of paramount importance”.

Zappone told the Dáil today: “Scouting Ireland commissioned Mr Ian Elliott to carry out a review into the organisation’s handling of an allegation of a serious sexual assault on an adult volunteer by another adult volunteer. While this assault took place in 2009, it was only reported within the organisation in 2016.

“The purpose of the review was to examine all matters surrounding the reinstatement of the individual in question, including the roles of the individual senior volunteers of the organisation in the reinstatement process.”

Zappone said, as a result of media coverage of these events last week, which was first reported in The Irish Times, she became aware that the alleged perpetrator of the alleged assault “had been reinstated without undergoing further garda vetting which had been recommended by gardaí”.

In relation to her decision to withdraw funding, Zappone added:

Funding provided by my department to any youth organisation is contingent on that organisation meeting with a range of governance requirements.  This includes its commitment to and compliance with its legal requirements in the area of child protection as set out in the Children First Act 2015 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 and 2016.
All publicly funded organisations are required to meet strong governance standards.  I have a duty of care regarding the public funding provided by my Department.

With regards to the allegations, Zappone said she will not make any further comment until she receives the completed reports.

Scouting Ireland has 40,000 youth members along with 13,000 adult volunteers and 35 paid staff.

TheJournal.ie has contacted Scouting Ireland for comment.

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