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

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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This has opened up a whole new can of worms. Tusla appeared before us earlier and gave a version of events, and we now have Scouting Ireland's interpretation of events. It throws up a set of new questions.

I wish to discuss the letter of 18 February again. Arising from the evidence we have just heard, there are questions to be asked of the departmental officials and the Minister in respect of this matter. Regarding the helpline, I will ask Mr. Elliott to put himself in the politician's position for a second. The Minister appeared before the House and put the key points of the Tusla letter on the record. When an Oireachtas Member hears the words, "Scouting Ireland should consider the viability of continuing with overnight trips", the natural and immediate reaction is to wonder whether something explosive that we did not know about had happened and to take the Minister in good faith. Having parsed this situation out a little further and consulted people on the ground regarding their obligations in respect of safeguarding, and given that overnight camps took place at the weekend, there is public confidence in matters at ground level.

Notwithstanding all of that, legitimate issues were raised in the letter of 18 February regarding the three cases at hand. They should not be glossed over, and I am not saying anyone has. It is not that the incidents did not take place. There was arguably a response at the time by the designated liaison officers. One could safely conclude that. If there was not, the cases would not have been highlighted in the way they have been.

I am not happy at the manner in which professional staff responded. For me, the issue is the manner in which Scouting Ireland responds to matters. I make no apology in that regard. In two of the cases Tusla highlights that the intervention and interrogation of children were inappropriate. That is where the failing was. We all appreciate and understand risk is inherent in any voluntary organisation, but in this instance the manner in which the eight professional staff responded was inappropriate. That is the issue for Tusla. It was mentioned that it had been raised at the inter-agency meeting on 25 February. What was the response of Tusla to Scouting Ireland in raising it, or did it raise in the manner I have just articulated it?