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Mick Finnegan has called for the report to be published without delay/
St. John's Ambulance

Survivor Mick Finnegan calls on St John’s Ambulance to publish report on past child abuse ‘without delay’

The board of St John’s Ambulance has said legal scrutiny of the report will begin immediately.

ONE OF THE survivors who reported being sexually abused as a child by a senior volunteer at St John’s Ambulance has called for the board to publish an independent review investigating historical child abuse within the organisation “without delay.”

The organisation previously stated that they would publish the finished report after legal scrutiny has been carried out.

Yesterday evening, the Board of St John Ambulance Ireland confirmed in a statement that it has received a detailed report from Dr Geoffrey Shannon “following a comprehensive independent review of the handling of historical child sexual abuse within the organisation.”

The report also includes an assessment of the current safeguarding practices within SJAI “to inform areas of learning and further improvement,” the board further stated.

Acknowledging that many people are “eager to view the findings” of the report, SJAI said that they intend to publish it in full after the “legal, insurance and data protection review has taken place.”

“This process will commence immediately, and the Board is committed to ensuring it is as quick and efficient as possible,” they further said.

Dublin native Mick Finnegan learned that the report, conducted by child law expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon, has been completed after more than 18 months on Monday.

Finnegan said that though aspects of participating in the investigation process were “re-traumatising,” it is now imperative that the board of SJAI do not “sit on the report, or hide behind a lengthy legal scrutiny process.”

“It would be unacceptable for them to wait for weeks, months or a year to publish this report and to begin putting Dr Shannon’s recommendations into effect. I hope they do the right thing, because it will help so many who have been the victim of child abuse to move on with their lives,” he said.

The 39-year-old first reported sexual abuse against a figure, who he says was a senior officer with the Old Kilmainham division, over 20 years ago.

He has been waiting for a long time to receive “any sort of accountability or apology.”

Finnegan joined St John’s Ambulance at the age of 12, and he says the abuse he endured at the hands of a senior member went on for years. 

“In 2012 my report was referred to the HSE. In 2018 I was contacted by Tusla,” Finnegan said.

After being the first to come forward publicly about the abuse, Finnegan said he had multiple other men reach out to him via social media looking for support and to share their experience, who had gone through the same thing.

“If they have an ounce of compassion, they will do the right thing and publish this report so we can build our lives again, that have been put on hold for so long,” he said.

Finnegan says that St John’s Ambulance has been “silent” throughout the whole process of the independent investigation, while he and other survivors have worked with Dr Shannon to contribute to its findings.

“They have never apologised to us. At one point in time we were offered six counselling sessions, that wouldn’t begin to touch what people has been through,” he added.

It’s understood that at least nine men have claimed they were sexually abused by the same former senior member of St. John’s ambulance from the 1960’s through to the 1990s.

Tusla, having carried out their own statutory investigation, stated that their allegations were “founded.”

Finnegan says that the abuse he suffered as a child has had a long-lasting impact on his mental health and his ability to maintain relationships.

“Lots of people have focused on the ‘meat’ of this story. They will say ‘you are so inspirational’ and talk about bravery, but the reality is I didn’t come forward publicly to get a pat on the back, I did it because I didn’t want another child to experience what I went through, and the physical pain, trauma, and stigma that abuse causes.

That is why the details of this report, and the recommendations that Dr Shannon has made are so important. How the organisation itself, the HSE and Tusla have dealt with this.

Having experienced homelessness when he was younger as a result of the impact that years of abuse had on him, Mick has gone on to work in rugby coaching, in homeless services in Belfast and mental health services for the NHS, and as a National Advisor to London’s Royal College of Psychiatrists.

He is currently studying social work at Trinity College Dublin.

“I’ve worked in outreach services for years, but I wanted to gain an academic background by graduating from a degree in social work, I wanted to be more than just an expert through experience.

“At times I find it easier to support others than I do supporting myself. Helping other people really does keep me going. I don’t find it to be hard work when I am talking to people about their lives. It’s a privilege to have their trust,” Finnegan said.

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