Cork scout leader pleads: Don’t ban camps

Cork scout leader pleads: Don’t ban camps
SCOUTING : Happy family is on a picnic outside

A CORKMAN who has led countless overnight Scouting Ireland trips has warned that the organisation will become “nothing more than a youth club” if a ban is introduced on overnight camps.

The scout leader was responding to comments from the child and family agency Tusla which has questioned the viability of overnight trips because of child predator fears.

Gardaí in Cork have interviewed at least six former scouts who allege that they were abused in scouting circles.

However, the scout leader, who did not want to be named, said: “We do not want to spoil the experience of scouting for the kids, who love going to camps every year. If the overnights have to stop, we are going to be a youth club then. The whole thing about scouting is being outdoors.”

He said that scouting is so popular in his local area in Cork that there is a waiting list to get into the group.

Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, revealed in the Dáil that Tusla had written to the board of Scouting Ireland raising concerns about child protection measures in the organisation.

The letter questioned the viability of overnight trips. But the Cork leader said such trips are at the heart of what scouting is about.

While accepting that there has been a history of abuse in the organisation, the scout leader said he and thousands of other volunteers have given up a lot of time for scouting.

He said: “I have given up one year and three weeks of my life in total over the last 18 years to trips with scouts.”

He added that he is not denying that there are flaws in the organisation but that steps are being taken to address those.

He said that as a scout himself before becoming a leader “I was at my safest as a young person in scouts.”

Labour’s Deputy Seán Sherlock said that there are thousands of “decent and honourable” volunteers in Scouting Ireland.

He said: “Their voice needs to be heard in parallel with dealing with the issues that Tusla has highlighted.

“I sympathise with innocent volunteers who give their lives to this organisation. We must ensure that their honesty is vindicated while at the same time dealing with the matters outlined in that Tusla letter.”

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