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Sexual Abuse

Government to consider statutory inquiry into Scouting Ireland after victims of sexual abuse speak out

One victim described his relationship with drugs and alcohol as a result of the abuse.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Nov 2019

THE TAOISEACH HAS told the Dail that the government will give consideration to a statutory inquiry into the handling of abuse claims in Scouting Ireland.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, he said it’s important to “tread carefully” to ensure an inquiry does not prejudice any legal cases.

As is the case with all statutory inquiries, Varadkar said it is important “to get them right”. 

However, he said he would discuss the matter with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

Victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the leaders of scouting organisations have spoken of the life-altering affect the experience had on their childhoods and later adult lives. 

One victim, Colm Bracken said he made plans to take his own life after living with the memories of sexual abuse as a child and began questioning why he was chosen as a victim during camping trips. 

“You blame yourself and then you say to yourself ‘why are you blaming yourself, it’s not your fault, you didn’t do anything’. It’s his fault. You look for reasons why it was you. Why were you picked,” he told an RTÉ Investigates programme airing on RTÉ One tonight. 

“One day I turned round and packed a bag, put a rope in it, stanley blades and I said that’s it, no more. I can’t do it anymore and that’s it, I’ll do away with myself. And ironically my phone rang and it was my 10-year-old son, and he saved my life. 

Last week, David O’Brien was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison after confessing to abusing a number of boys while he was a leader in the Scouting Association of Ireland, and later at the Catholic Boys Scouts. 

Scouting Ireland, the modern organisation, was founded when the two scouting traditions Scouting Association of Ireland and the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland joined together in 2003. It has a devoted membership of roughly 50, 000 people country wide.

O’Brien and another leader targeted Bracken when he was a child. 

I was eleven when I joined the Scouts… O’Brien and he were my first sexual experiences. That’s crazy. They shattered my soul. They killed my soul.

At Dublin Central Criminal Court, O’Brien pleaded guilty to eight counts of indecent assault relating to four boys on dates between 1 January, 1972 and 31 December, 1981.

RTÉ Investigates reports that he was involved with at least five scout troops. During the court case, O’Brien estimated that he had molested between 30 and 40 boys. 

Another victim, Dave Smyth told the programme how the legacy of abuse has been ingrained in his mind. 

“I was abused as a child. People say ‘ah you put it behind you’ but you never put it behind you because when something like that happens to you it changes you forever. 

“I can’t go back and relive my childhood. It was stolen from me. My childhood was never the same after that and my adult life was never the same. 

“Self-medication, self-abuse, self-destructive behaviour, not being able to have proper relations with people, doubting yourself all the time, all of these things become ingrained in your psyche.”

Last December, Scouting Ireland wrote to the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone stating that its ongoing review of historic complaints found evidence of “Extensive prolonged and organised child sex abuse” and “Abuse at all levels” in both Scouting organisations.

Up to March this year, there were 401 sexual abuse complaints and 247 alleged abusers identified on file in Scouting Ireland

A third victim, Dave Smyth said he developed a relationship with drugs and alcohol as a result his experience. 

“It was an attempt late at night. That was the moment I believe that my childhood ended. 

“I’d gone into a state where I couldn’t be conscious and sober at the same time. I had to be out of my head and between alcohol and drugs and any other kind of abuse I could give to myself just to stay unconscious. Oblivion was the best place to be.”

In a statement provided to the programme, Scouting Ireland said “since its inception in 2003, it has always reported all information on alleged sexual offences which has been brought to our safeguarding team’s attention to the appropriate authorities.”

The RTÉ Investigates programme airs on RTÉ One tonight at 9.35pm.

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