Northern Ireland

Concerns raised about child protection in Scouting Ireland

Scouting Ireland Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption A report by an Irish government agency has raised serious concerns about child protection measures at Scouting Ireland

Ireland's Children's Minister has said a report into Scouting Ireland has highlighted serious concerns about child protection procedures.

Katherine Zappone has asked for consideration to be given to ending overnight trips.

Scouting Ireland, an all-island organisation, has been at the centre of a major investigation into past cases of alleged child sex abuse.

The child and family agency, Túsla, has recommended an immediate review.

It would examine the supervision of children involved in scouting.

An ongoing internal review has so far identified 313 alleged victims and 237 alleged abusers.

Image copyright Oireachtas
Image caption Katherine Zappone, the Irish Children's Minister, has said consideration should be given to ending overnight trips

Most of the the alleged abuse cases took place between the 1960s and 1990s.

Ms Zappone told the Dáil (Irish parliament) that Túsla has recently written to Scouting Ireland highlighting serious concerns about that organisation and had made eight recommendations, including that a meeting of the Scouting Ireland board of management is progressed without delay.

She also said that the actions of key personnel holding a role in safeguarding within Scouting Ireland may have been compromised and consideration may have to be given to this.

Ms Zappone said she will be meeting with the chief social worker in her department to consider the next steps, but that urgent action must be taken.

Opposition parties have expressed their concern about the latest development.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock said it was deeply worrying that the Irish parliament had been told by Scouting Ireland in the recent past that such concerns were being "actively" dealt by the chief executive and management.

Scouting Ireland said it wished to reassure "parents and volunteers, in the strongest possible terms, that safeguarding is front and centre of all our operations" and said it took issue with some of the claims made in the report and was seeking an urgent meeting with Túsla.

"To allege that 'the actions of key personnel holding a role in safeguarding may have been compromised' is a serious statement to make and we would like to understand why Túsla has made this statement," it said in a statement.

"This is a most serious allegation, which we would have responded to immediately, had we known or understood Túsla's concerns. It has not been raised in any of our meetings with Túsla.

"It would be helpful to understand what evidence Túsla has for suggesting that Scouting Ireland should consider the viability of continuing with overnight trips.

"Overnight trips and the experience of camping outside at night is an experience every scout should have the opportunity to enjoy and we have a strong policy framework in place to support this activity in Scouting Ireland. Again this matter was never raised by Túsla in any meetings with our organisation," added the statement.

The scouting organisation said it had "fully co-operated with Túsla and Gardaí" and over the past 18 months has "put in place an extensive safeguarding programme, led by one of Ireland's most respected safeguarding experts, Ian Elliott".

"The letter received from Túsla which raises serious questions about safeguarding in Scouting Ireland is deeply concerning and we have sought an urgent meeting with the chair and CEO of Tusla to understand better their concerns to better enable us to act on them."

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