Could UK football scandal trigger similar child abuse revelations in Ireland?

Could UK football scandal trigger similar child abuse revelations in Ireland?
Convicted paedophile Barry Bennell.

Convicted paedophile Barry Bennell and the allegations of child sexual abuse made against him by footballers while he was coaching them will have put sporting hierarchies on this island on red alert as much as it has their UK counterparts, writes Peter McNamara.

An email, for example, dropped to the media mailing list last Friday under the heading ‘FAI Statement on Child Welfare issues’.

"In accordance with the FAI Child Welfare Policy, members of the FAI who are advised, suspect or are concerned that a child may be at risk of abuse are obliged to report these concerns to TUSLA and the relevant Designated Child Officer of their Affiliated Member body,’ part of the statement read. "In the event of an emergency where a child is believed to be in immediate danger, the Statutory Authorities should be alerted as a matter of urgency. This may be done through any Garda station. All child abuse investigations will be dealt with by the Statutory Authorities, with the support of the FAI.

"The FAI has been in contact with Barnardo's and One-In-Four, and both agencies are available to work with the Association.

"The FAI has previously informed all member clubs, leagues and stakeholders of the requirement to comply with the statutory regulations laid out in National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 to ensure all adults working with children have received Garda vetting."

With such diligence in mind on the part of the FAI, it may have concerned John Delaney and co to read Roddy Collins’ account of Colin Goggin’s alleged abuse of a young player at Bohemians in the early nineties.

Could UK football scandal trigger similar child abuse revelations in Ireland?

Goggin was subsequently convicted of sexually assaulting two youngsters separate to Collins’ allegation.

The question is: Does it end with Goggin? Or, as Collins suggested in the Irish Daily Star, is sexual abuse a sickening commonality in football clubs across the country?

If Collins is correct it would not be a surprise if more and more people come forward to reveal the abuse they have suffered during their sporting endeavours at underage levels, including GAA players.

In May of 2014, for instance, ex-GAA coach

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Ronan McCormack from Clonloo in Sligo was charged with 53 counts of indecent assault on five boys. He had been coaching the Eastern Harps’ U12 side.

The GAA, obviously, have provisions in place to guard against any sort of harm to underage players.

Could UK football scandal trigger similar child abuse revelations in Ireland?

There is extensive material to read within the ‘Child Welfare & Protection’ section of the official website.

Under the heading ‘Dealing with allegations of abuse’, the following can be found: "As a young person you have the right to be kept safe from harm, and it is the responsibility of your parents and guardians to make sure that they protect you. We here in the GAA also have a responsibility to ensure, as far as is practically possible, that we provide safe and enjoyable surroundings for you while you play our games or attend our events.

"This is one of the many rights that you have as a young person, and Ireland has made a promise to the United Nations to promote these rights for all young people in Ireland.

"The Children First: National Guidance was developed to help protect children and young people where there are abuse and/or welfare concerns. It explains what abuse is and tells everyone who is involved in the lives of young people - like parents, teachers, doctors Gardaí, and social workers - what they must do if they think a child or young person is being abused.

"A child means a person under the age of 18 years, excluding a person who is or has been married’ (Children First, 2.1.2)

"Regrettably there are people who hurt children. In some cases, you may be at risk of harm from someone you know or love. This could be your parent(s), grandparent(s), Aunt or Uncle, cousin, boyfriend/girlfriend, school friends or someone else in your life. It could be someone who is under 18 themselves.

"If you are being harmed or abused by someone you know it could be hard for you to tell. However, it is very important that you do tell so that you can get help."

The GAA, without question, are extremely proactive on the sensitive subjects that are underage player welfare and abuse.

However, that would not have always been the case where, in years past, too many people turned blind eyes to child abuse within schools, orphanages and other institutions.

Nobody can concretely say it didn't happen within the GAA too. Where abuse was present within sporting organisations, victims must be encouraged to come forward. The Association would provide the necessary support to this person or people.

What would be truly pitiful is if potential victim/s remain suffering in silence.

Characters such as Bennell and Goggin are parasites that have to be weeded out of society for the safety of children in their communities and clubs.

The general consensus is these allegations made against those two are ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

More than anything we hope that there are no more of these individuals still lurking in the shadows.

Yet, we weren’t born yesterday either and if there are more they need to be outed by other courageous men and women who have not revealed their plight.

Difficult as it may be, it could ensure the safety of many children beginning their journeys as sportspeople.

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