The children’s minister is seeking an urgent meeting with Scouting Ireland after details emerged of 71 alleged abusers in the organisation.
Katherine Zappone said she had been “shocked” to learn that evidence of 71 alleged abusers and 108 alleged victims has been found, so far.
Ian Elliot, who has been tasked with examining Scouting Ireland’s historical records, told the Oireachtas children’s committee that 14 of the alleged perpetrators had multiple victims.
But he expects the figures to increase as more victims come forward.
The children’s committee called for “root and branch reform” within Scouting Ireland.
Members unanimously expressed dismay and shock at the figures revealed yesterday.
Outlining the catalogue of abuse which spanned more than three decades, Ms Zappone said: “I too am shocked by the figures. I find it deeply distressing.
She assured the committee the vast majority of volunteers in Scouting Ireland “do an excellent job”.
Mr Elliot, meanwhile, told the committee he had been made aware of the cases of sexual abuse by trawling through records held by Scouting Ireland, and also through people making contact with him.
“The figure of 108 victims is an important one but I want you to think of that, not in numerical terms but in human terms — that is 108 people who have suffered and who are suffering today as a result of situations which they should never have been exposed to.”
Aisling Kelly, the chairperson of Scouting Ireland, said she wanted to categorically state the organisation is committed to providing support to all victims of past abuse by members.
“Personally, as a mother of two very young children, this fills me with deep sadness,” she said.
“We are deeply sorry for the hurt that has been caused by the actions of some past members of Scouting Ireland and its legacy organisations.”
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.
“We are taking a victim-led approach to this work and we are determined to ensure a comprehensive and compassionate response to those that were so badly wronged in the past.
“Many of these cases have been identified by victims coming forward to us with their stories. We now have a process where victims are being listened to and many feel that for the first time their voice is being heard.”
Ms Kelly said a new policy for supporting victims of abuse has been developed, noting Scouting Ireland is increasing its professional safeguarding resources, including recruiting a fulltime ‘safeguarding manager’ as recommended in the Jillian van Turnhout Report.
Safeguarding is now a standing item on the board’s agenda.
Former Senator Ms van Turnhout, who carried out the independent review of governance at Scouting Ireland, said “we do need to have this evidence in the public” and, further “we need to ensure there is no hiding place for someone who abuses”.
The report on the governance of Scouting Ireland she had presented, in June, to Minister Zappone 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 young people made the new information all the more upsetting, she told RTÉ’s News at One.
“We know that these abusers have breached that trust and violated those individuals childhoods.”
By Elaine Loughlin Political Correspondent – Irish Examiner