Revelations about child sexual abuse in the Irish scouting movement are truly shocking.
Three hundred and 17 alleged victims have come forward and 212 alleged perpetrators identified, and these figures may rise substantially. This is yet another dreadful scandal. It should call into question the continued existence of Scouting Ireland and the broader scouting movement.
We should begin by examining the roots of the scouting movement, and its original raison d’être
It was founded by Robert Baden Powel, a British colonial army officer who became a British media hero because of his alleged heroic defence of the town of Mafeking during the Boer War. However his military competence was questioned by his superiors and he was subsequently removed from active service command. We must question also the wisdom of regimenting young children with all the trappings of military units, including uniforms, flags, insignia, ranks and blind obedience, when we should be encouraging children to think for themselves and develop their own particular skills, rather than have someone else’s skills and ethos imposed on them. There has been no adequate accountability for most of the previous scandals in Ireland, and the taxpayers have been repeatedly forced to pay compensation.
Many of the perpetrators escaped punishment because far too many were complicit in cover-ups so that many perpetrators had died of old age before their crimes were exposed. The Irish Government and the board of Scouting Ireland should be actively considering disbanding Scouting Ireland both as an exemplary action to prevent further similar abuses and because it has proved to be not fit for purpose.