A FORMER detective garda superintendent will spearhead safeguarding children in Scouting Ireland.
The appointment of Gearóid Begley comes as the organisation is dealing with a raft of historical reports of abuse within scouting circles between the 1960s and the 1990s.
One person is under active investigation by officers in Cork and gardaí said no other alleged perpetrator has been brought to their attention. The man at the centre of their investigation in Cork was arrested late last year and released without charge. The Director of Public Prosecutions will decide on whether a prosecution will be brought.
Mr Begley will take up the role on April 8, coming to it from the Criminal Assets Bureau. Previously, he was the Detective Superintendent in the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, now the Garda National Protective Services Bureau. His appointment has been announced to scout members by the board of Scouting Ireland. The board elaborated that he was the child protection officer for An Garda Siochána in his role with the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit.
The board added: “He was involved in the development of the model of the Divisional Protective Services Units which is currently being rolled out in An Garda Síochána. While in that position he worked closely with State Agencies and non-Governmental organisations in the sector.”
It continued: “Gearóid was also involved in the introduction of SORAM, a joint agency unit dealing with sex offenders who are subject to Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 under the supervision of the Probation Service. He sat on a number of joint agency committees with both the HSE and TUSLA. In addition Gearóid was involved in a number of other committees including the development of sexual abuse services in Ireland and the introduction of Children First legislation.”
Mr Begley said that he is “very impressed with the absolute commitment to safeguarding from volunteers and staff and the dedication of the professional safeguarding team.”
“Scouting Ireland has declared its intent to become a centre of excellence for safeguarding and putting children first and I look forward to working with Gearóid Begley on achieving this very important objective,” John Lawlor, CEO said. “His reputation is exemplary and his seniority and experience in the area of Children First and in dealing with sexual abuse will be of critical importance to the management team and the Board of Scouting Ireland.”
He said extensive work had been undertaken by interim safeguarding manager Ian Elliott.
The appointment comes a day after the appearance of representatives of Scouting Ireland and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, before the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs and two weeks after the publication of a letter from Tusla containing concerns about safeguarding in the organisation.
At that meeting, the chairman of the board, Adrian Tennant said the letter, which raised concerns about the future of overnight and weekend trips, “shocked Scouting Ireland to the core”.
Jim Gibson, chief operations officer of Tusla, told the committee that the letter, which was published two weeks ago by the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, was never intended for publication.