Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs

Governance and Child Safeguarding Issues in Scouting Ireland: Tusla and Scouting Ireland

10:00 am

Dr. John Lawlor:

I am glad the Senator asked the question. We are part of a worldwide movement of 170 national scouting organisations. The issue and problem has arisen elsewhere and it has tended to be dealt with in the northern part of the globe - Canada, the United States and the UK - as well as in Australia. We have learned some lessons from their experience. Scouting organisations are not unique among youth organisations and, in fact, anywhere where there are children it is likely that this has happened. As one goes south towards the Mediterranean, one tends to hear that the organisations do not have that problem. We know, however, that is probably a case of a see-no-evil monkey.

Nevertheless, we have had the benefit of other scouting organisations and I pay particular tribute to the Scout Association in the UK, which is approximately ten times our size and which has been generous to us in facilitating expert training courses for our staff, continuing professional development and engagement with the UK police because it tends to see trends before we do, particularly in the case of youth-on-youth incidents or the difficulties with social media, impersonation and so on. The Scout Association has been helpful to us and we are lucky to have on our board a member of the Scout Association, whom committee members may have met at the previous meeting, who taught us a lot and is part of our safeguarding oversight at board level. We have learned a lot from our colleagues overseas, where they have had to address similar difficulties. We received a message of support from the secretary general of the WOSM, Ahmad Alhendawi, at the weekend for the work that Scouting Ireland does in this area. I expect Scouting Ireland to be of global significance as an exemplar of how to deal with these issues. We have learned from others. The Canadians made a public apology in respect of the matter, while the Boy Scouts of America have particular issues they, too, must address. There are lessons to be learned.