Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs

Governance Issues in Scouting Ireland: Discussion

Dr. John Lawlor:

I will answer the question if I am allowed. It is my belief as CEO that our staff have behaved in an exemplary fashion in carrying out their duties. I am confident the record will show that. The responsibility of Scouting Ireland as an organisation was to report these matters to statutory agencies and it did so. It is not the case that disclosures were taken and placed in a filing cabinet and that nothing was done. That is simply not the truth. The truth is that when a disclosure was made it was reported to statutory agencies. The record is clear and consistent through the whole history of Scouting Ireland. Children First was mentioned and 14 years before mandatory reporting was introduced in 2017, Scouting Ireland was reporting to statutory agencies on a regular basis. Those files from 2003 and from before the review the Deputy referenced in 2012 were made available to An Garda Síochána and were utilised by it in the context of its investigations of criminal cases. These are the facts. It is important to note that before the late 1990s, these matters were strictly handled by volunteers in the legacy organisations. That is what happened and that is the truth. That was not a satisfactory situation but I should leave it to the work of Mr. Elliott to help us understand that. He is open to bringing those matters to this committee when he concludes his work.

On the staff, it is important to say they have behaved in an exemplary fashion. I will ask Mr. Begley to comment on this but they behaved heroically last year in their work on the helpline in how they empathetically dealt with victims who came on board. The numbers say so and the data say so. As I said here in March, the truth was evidenced by that work. It was an uncomfortable truth for Scouting Ireland. For those of us who love Scouting Ireland and have loved Scouting Ireland since the time we were children, we have to live with that truth but it is correct we brought that to the fore. This was brought to the fore by Scouting Ireland, by our staff and by my staff heroically spending hours on helplines under the direction of Mr. Elliott, taking the stories from survivors, dealing with them empathetically, offering them counselling and making sure what they said was recorded properly and was reported to statutory agencies. That is what happened. Mr. Begley might be able to assist us in telling us how exactly the helpline worked because he has done some work on this.


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