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Committee 'viscerally shocked' at number of alleged abusers and victims in Scouting Ireland probe

Update - 2.01pm: Former Senator Jillian van Turnhout has said she was very saddened to hear of the number of cases uncovered in a full review of historical cases of allegations of abuse in Scouting Ireland.

A report on the governance of Scouting Ireland that she had presented to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone in June had concluded there was a “deep distrust” between the voluntary and professional arms of the organisation.

The children’s rights consultant said she believed Scouting Ireland had made significant changes in recent months. The special relationship and trust between leaders and children made the new information all the more upsetting, she said.

“They violated that trust,” she told RTE’s News at One.

She said she was hopeful that at last the issue has been aired and commended Ian Elliot who conducted the review. “If there is something to be uncovered, he will uncover it.”

[timgcap=Jillian van Turnhout.]zzzJillianVanTurnhout261216_large.jpg[/timgcap

Ms van Turnhout said there were people who had information and victims who should now come forward and report any such incidents to the Gardaí or Tusla.

“We need to ensure there is no hiding place for someone who abuses children. At last these voices are being heard.”

"Every organisation needs to look and ensure that they are protecting all children. If an allegation comes forward, that there is space for them to be heard.”

She spoke of her father’s work with Scouting Ireland in the past when he had been frustrated and horrified at the cases he was trying to raise.

“He was trying to use the arms of the State, but there were people trying to hinder or block him. There were rings of people who protected one another.”


An investigation of Scouting Ireland has found evidence of 71 alleged abusers and 108 alleged victims within the organisation

Minister Katherine Zappone delivered the news to the Oireachtas Committee for Children and Youth Affairs this morning, after receiving the information late last night.

Ms Zappone said these figures may change.

She said: "Mr Ian Elliot has been examining the historical records. He has found evidence of 71 alleged abusers and 108 alleged victims.

This is based on his work to date and the numbers may change. Most of the cases were between the 1960s and the 1980s, but there may be one from an earlier period."

She added: “It is devastating. I find it extremely distressing as the minister to have received that information.”

It really is shocking. I have to say I'm absolutely viscerally shocked by this information

She told the committee on children and youth affairs on Wednesday morning that she had been informed of the cases on Tuesday night and that files had been sent to the Garda and child protection agency Tusla in respect of the alleged abusers who are still alive.

She said she understood none of the alleged abusers were still working with the scouting organisation.

The review is not yet complete.

Committee members said they were “shocked” and “aghast” at the findings.

Fine Gael TD Tom Neville said like every other member of the committee he was “aghast” at the revelations.

“I welcome the fact that this information has been found and that it is coming out. I don’t welcome the fact that it actually happened,” he said.

He added that it was important the truth came out to ensure it did not happen again.

Labour TD for Cork East Sean Sherlock described the details as “devastating” and said the committee should empathise victims who are traumatised by the revelations.

He added that honest volunteers would also be “devastated” and “traumatised” by the revelation.

“It really is shocking. I have to say I’m absolutely viscerally shocked by this information,” he said.

Mr Sherlock also said a mechanism needed to be found to ensure historical cases were dealt with and also that scouting could continue “safely and without a cloud hanging over it”.

Ms Zappone acknowledged the “extraordinary work” that does go on in the organisation.

“I’ve seen that first-hand throughout the country and the work that’s gone on in supporting the children and young people and the volunteers and how important that is,” she said.

“I want to assure people that I want to continue to support that.”

I want to reiterate ... our absolute determination to learn from those mistakes and make Scouting Ireland today as safe an environment as we can create for all of our members

But she said that given the information, she would be monitoring the situation and funding would not be fully restored until issues were resolved.

Scouting Ireland chairwoman Aisling Kelly apologised for the “hurt” caused as a result of “poor practice”.

“When we last appeared before this committee, an apology was offered for the hurt that has been caused as a result of poor practice on the part of those involved in scouting. Some of this occurred many years ago but the effects are still causing distress today,” she told the committee.

“I want to reiterate that apology and add to it our sincere regret for what has happened, and our absolute determination to learn from those mistakes and make Scouting Ireland today as safe an environment as we can create for all of our members.”

Ms Kelly said the organisation had undergone a “radical governance change” and was “working hard” to establish the full extent of the knowledge that exists in relation to the abuse.

“Personally, as a mother of two very young children, this fills me with deep sadness,” she said.

“I want to say categorically that Scouting Ireland is committed to providing support and help to all victims of past abuse within scouting.”

A new board was elected for Scouting Ireland last month.

Earlier: Scouting Ireland to report on child protection measures to Oireachtas committee

Scouting Ireland is under the spotlight again today, as senior officials from the organisation appear before the Children and Youth Affairs Committee.

The group had its state funding stopped twice this year by the Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.

The decision was made due to concerns about governance and child protection issues.

Committee Chairman Alan Farrell hopes progress has been made:

Mr Farrell said: "Today's meeting will be for the purpose of ensuring that the organisation is on the right track in implementing all of the changes they have adopted, and indeed, that the Minister herself and the department are contented with the structural changes that enable the department to reinstate funding."

- Digital Desk