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Scouting Ireland's State funding frozen over governance concerns following rape allegation

The funding freeze comes after a man in the organisation was reinstated, without garda vetting, despite a rape allegation being made against him.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.

AROUND €500,000 WORTH of state funding is being withheld from Scouting Ireland due to governance concerns, including the organisation’s compliance with child protection laws.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone decided to suspend the funding after a man in the organisation was reinstated, without garda vetting, despite a rape allegation being made against him.

“In light of the serious nature of recent media coverage the Minister has decided to with-hold funding from Scouting Ireland until such time as she is satisfied with the governance of the organisation,” the Department of Children and Youth affairs said.

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 their website seeking to reassure its members that their safety “is, and always will be, of paramount importance”.

The minister is writing to the organisation this afternoon, requesting that it attends a meeting with her in the department. It is understood the minister is surprised the organisation has not made contact with her or her office this afternoon.

Source: Eamonn Farrell

She said the handling of allegations is “very concerning”. Those sentiments were echoed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said he backed the minister’s decision. Varadkar said:

We don’t know yet all of the facts, Minister Zappone has taken the decision to suspend funding for Scouting Ireland until we can really get the facts, and I think that’s an appropriate decision and swift action by her.

Scouting Ireland received €876,337 from the department last year. It received €834,607 in 2016, along with another €250,000 from other initiatives that year.

It is understood that 50% of this year’s funding has already been drawn down by the group – meaning the monies being withheld relates to the remaining €400,000 – €500,000 worth of funding.

The group is expected to apply for another cycle of funding in the summer. Decision on future funding will be determined by how the organisation addresses the minister’s concerns.

Scouting Ireland has 40,00 youth members along with 13,000 adult volunteers and 35 paid staff. It is due to hold it annual conference in Dublin tomorrow. It has yet to respond to the TheJournal.ie’s requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn and David Raleigh

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Ceimin Burke

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