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Scouting Ireland: Report on abuse finds 'cover up' and 'cronyism'

The report by Ian Elliott was published today.
May 14th 2020, 11:30 AM 31,393 45

Updated May 14th 2020, 7:38 PM

A LONG-AWAITED report into past cases of abuse in Scouting Ireland has found that there was a “cover up” and a “failure to report”.

The report, published today, found that “there appears to have been an almost complete absence of any concern for the young people that were abused”.

To date, it has been revealed there were 212 known and alleged perpetrators and 317 alleged victims over the last 70 years.

Last year, the government said it would consider a statutory inquiry into allegations of historical sexual abuse at the organisation.

CEO of Scouting Ireland, Anne Griffin, called the findings “deeply shocking and deeply distressing”. 

“Scouting Ireland is a very different organisation today,” she said. 

The report, by child protection consultant Ian Elliott, was highly critical of the governance in the organisation.

“A characteristic of the poor governance that existed in scouting was the existence of a culture driven by self-interest, with little attention paid to the young people involved,” Elliott concluded. 

“Cronyism thrived and remained a significant problem in scouting”.

The report found that “individuals, who were suspected or known to be sex offenders, gained positions of power and became largely impregnable”. 

Maeve Lewis, CEO of One in Four, a charity for survivors of child sexual abuse, said efforts should be made to bring perpetrators of such abuse to justice. 

“Our first thoughts must be with the hundreds of survivors who were let down by the scouting volunteers and leadership who ignored serious allegations of sexual abuse, often made by several boys or their parents,” she said.

“The pain and suffering they have carried into their adult lives is very real, and they are deserving of the most expert independent support.  Where the perpetrators are still alive, every effort must be made to bring them before the criminal courts.”

Cronyism, the report states, “created a situation where those who had a sexual interest in children and young people, were sometimes protected by moving them sideways or even promoted in scouting, rather than expelled. They were protected and supported by others who had a similar interest”. 

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.

The abuse took place between the 1960s and the 1990s. 

Today, Scouting Ireland issued an apology again for the abuse and said that the organisation would learn from the lessons of the report.  

In a direct apology to victims, Chair of the Board of Scouting Ireland, Adrian Tennant, said that the organisation was “sorry that adults in scouting harmed you. We are sorry that you were not protected. We are sorry that you weren’t listened to”. 

We are sorry for the hurt caused to you and the legacy of that hurt. We know that we cannot take away that hurt. But we want you to know that you have been heard. We want you to know that you are believed.

In a document published alongside the report, Scouting Ireland’s Board of Directors has published a document setting out 12 recommendations in order to improve governance in the organisation including improved safeguarding and better record-keeping.

It remains to be seen if a statutory inquiry will go ahead. “If an organisation is closed and unwilling to undergo a process such as this Learning Review, then the case for the state to intervene is strengthened. This has not been my experience here,” Elliott writes in the report. 

He also warns that more any more comprehensive investigation would run into issues of the lack of records. “It cannot review documentation that it does not have access to, nor cannot it interview people who are not available to it,” states the report. 

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In the document, Elliott includes fours case studies of how abuse was mishandled. 

“They are shocking and deeply disturbing,” the report states.

“However, they need to be reviewed so that practice of this nature can never occur again. This is not a summary of all the case studies that were alarming or that contained bad practice. Quite simply, to do this would involve more time and more resources than are available,” the report continues. 

No names are contained in the report. Elliott notes that “the alleged offenders are deceased and unable to provide any defence against the accusations made about them”.

“However, many of those allegations, are repeated independently by others, and are regarded by the reviewer as credible”.  

In his conclusion, Elliott said any objective examination of the evidence presented to the review, would lead to the conclusion that scouting failed to protect vulnerable young people and allowed risky individuals to operate for too long a period.

“There was a reluctance to hold people to account and to recognise the reason why the organisation existed at all which is to serve the needs of young people in a positive way.”

Alan Farrell, the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, said that it was “essential” for the organisation to follow the recommendations of the report. 

“The details laid out in the report make for very difficult reading and highlight the significant failings in safety and oversight procedures in the Scouting movement in Ireland in the past,” Farrell said. 

With reporting from Press Association

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Dominic McGrath


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