Scouting Ireland inherited ‘grim and shocking’ legacy sex abuse issues for which it unreservedly apologises, its chairperson said yesterday.
But Adrian Tennant denied claims the scouting body did not adequately handle abuse allegations brought to its attention.
Those claims were aired in a recent RTÉ Investigates programme which reported an extensive review of all the body’s child protection files was due to happen in 2012. But it did not happen at the time.
The programme also reported it was not until 2017 that Scouting Ireland began a review of its safeguarding procedures and all its files of complaints both historic and present held since its inception in 2003/4.
“The recent RTÉ Investigates programme shone a searing light on the hurt done to young people in the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scouting Association of Ireland,” Mr Tennant told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.
“We again apologise unreservedly to those who were hurt by the actions of adult volunteers in these legacy organisations.
“The picture that has emerged of these organisations over the past 18 months is grim and shocking.
But he also appeared to dismiss allegations made by RTÉ.
“Whereas we cannot comment on individual cases, we can assure parents, guardians, volunteers and staff that Scouting Ireland is a very different organisation to legacy organisations in which so many were let down and badly treated,” he said.
“Scouting Ireland has always reported any reportable offences brought to the attention of our safeguarding team to the appropriate authorities.”
Galway East Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte asked how many of the complaint files Scouting Ireland in its possession have been passed to Tusla and gardaí.
Gearóid Begley, the former Criminal Assets Bureau detective superintendent who now heads up Scouting Ireland’s safeguarding office, said he did not know.
“I can’t give you a figure for that at the moment,” he told her.
Mr Tennant, when also asked for the number, replied: “I think looking for a number, which we will establish, is not the issue here. The issue is: have we reported everything that we should do?
Sean Sherlock TD said: “If you accept the bone fides of the people who bore witness (on RTÉ) it is arguable there was a failure of reporting.
“If those who in 2019 are saying there did not appear to be a process in respect of their individual stories, then you would have to contend there is a failure of reporting.
“And to my mind, looking at that programme, I would say there was a failure of reporting and a failure to deal properly with the stories, the suffering, the trauma.”
Dr John Lawlor, CEO, said: “On the foot of the RTÉ programme, we checked to see if we did our job here. Yes, we did our job.”
Earlier, he insisted: “The threshold for not reporting is very low. The reporting record is good.
"In a majority of cases, we err on the side of caution and report.”