THE sentencing yesterday for abuse within scouting circles was a massive fall from grace for a prominent Cork businessman and scout leader.
Former scouting colleagues have been left shocked by the admission by David Barry that he had carried out crimes against boy scouts.
Barry, aged 73, from Firgrove Gardens, in Bishopstown, was arraigned at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in April and pleaded guilty to 29 charges. One was attempted sexual assault. Twenty eight related to sexual or indecent assaults.
His arrest, in December 2018, caused a shock across scouting circles, not just in Cork, but across the country.
The arrest, and his subsequent release, while a case was being built against him, coincided with revelations from Scouting Ireland that the organisation was aware, at that point, “of 212 known and alleged perpetrators and of 317 alleged victims, over the last 70 years”.
One of those who made a statement to gardaí about Barry praised them for the time spent working on building the case.
He said Barry was his scout leader and that his behaviour, with the benefit of hindsight, was “inappropriate”.
He elaborated: “He would be very touchy feely. He would be making inappropriate jokes.”
He said some boys were invited to Barry’s house at times, “ostensibly for preparation of scouting stuff and scouting stuff would have happened, but it was sort of a sleepover, which was very inappropriate in itself”.
He said many allegations made against Barry involved boys who were at his house.
There was talk among scouts that Barry was “weird and strange”. He said: “It is all still a bit of a shock. It was inappropriate, it was weird.”
He was glad he made his statement to gardaí, saying: “I feel it was important for me. It is upsetting for anyone who had a connection to the scouts. It is awful.”
One person who encountered Barry through scouts said: “He was a cunning person, who fooled us all.” Another who knew Barry well said: “He was considered to be the best of the best in scouting and put a lot of time into the Togher scout group.”
He added: “I was so angry when I found out.” Another former scout said he had been left shattered by the revelations about Barry, not fully believing, at first, that he was capable of causing such damage to young people who had placed their trust in him.
He said: “I nearly needed counselling when I found out. The man I knew is not the man he is.”
He feels deceived, having had very many dealings with him.
He remembers of him: “He was a peace commissioner, he was a minister of the eucharist. He knew all the protocols that needed to be followed — he was a stickler for protocol.” And he said that Barry had a way of getting people to say yes to any requests he made of them, adding: “You could not say no to him, because you would feel you would be letting him down.”
As well as regularly travelling across the country through the scouts, Barry undertook foreign trips, too, including one in 1999 to plan ahead for a trip the following year to Pennsylvania to mark the millennium.
During the 1999 trip, Barry gave a rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ on a New York pavement.
One former scout recalled a trip to France by a Cork scout group.
Barry flew to France to join the group and was met off the plane by a line of scouts to welcome him.
The person added: “He ‘inspected the troops’ as he walked along. He was like a dignitary when he called to our scout group.”
In the 2016 annual report of Scouting Ireland, Barry’s work in public relations for the organisation was heralded. It said the organisation continued to support scout groups in engaging with, and garnering, media coverage in their own locality, and mentioned “great work” by David Barry in Cork.
He was among the scout leaders who contributed to a weekly round-up of scouting news in Cork for the then Evening Echo.
Not alone was he well known in scouting circles, but he was a familiar figure in many facets of life in Cork City: As a photographer, in politics, and in a local church, for example. He was also involved with a credit union in Bishopstown.
He opened his photography business on Patrick Street in 1967, before later moving to Pembroke Street.
As a photographer, he was well known across the city and county. He photographed thousands of weddings in his career.
Each Christmas, he took photos at the Santa grotto in Wilton Shopping Centre, and was also regularly on duty at the graduations in University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology. For over three decades, his photographic company ran a children’s portrait competition.
He had a brief foray into politics, running in the 2004 local elections (for the Progressive Democrats) for Cork City Council in the Cork South West ward. However, he withdrew from the race shortly before the election, citing health reasons.
In the weeks before his withdrawal, he spoke out against candidates canvassing at church gates, saying people did not need to be harrassed by election candidates when they were on their way to celebrate Mass.
He also declared that putting leaflets under the wipers of car windows led to littering on the streets and was unnecessary.
One member of the party, which is now defunct, described Barry as a “one-week wonder” for the PDs, someone who was asked to run because of his high profile.
Given events of recent weeks, David Barry’s years at the forefront of Cork society, either in scouting or behind the lens, have been eclipsed by the secrets he hid for many years.