• Robert Emmet Bourke & Co.

Scouting Ireland: an update and history of the current problems

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

How we got here

In February 2017 news media in Ireland published a story about the alleged mishandling of a rape complaint made by a female volunteer. The complaint referred to a camping trip in 2009 when she was 18 years old.

Following this Scouting Ireland commissioned child safety expert, Mr Ian Elliot, to conduct a detailed review of how the organisation dealt with that complaint. His confidential report criticised the actions of four senior volunteers. The report also made several recommendations on how to address overall safeguarding failings within the organisation, including advice that an audit of how historic child protection cases should be handled.

Following news media reports (most notably from the Irish Times in April of that year) revealed that the male leader who had been accused of the rape had not undergone any Garda vetting before being readmitted to Scouting Ireland.

Arising from all of this, Ms Katherine Zappone, who has served as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs since May 2016, took the decision to suspend State funding, worth close to €900,000 a year, to Scouting Ireland.

The facts and figures

There are over 500 Scouting Groups in Ireland. It is a volunteer led organisation. The organisation has over 50,000 members.

Scouting Ireland Services is a company limited by guarantee which oversees and co-ordinates scouting activities throughout Ireland. This organisation was formed in January 2004 by way of a voluntary merger of two previous scouting organisations; the Scouting Association of Ireland and the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland.

Scouting Ireland Services is the successor in title of both of those organisations and the legal entity held as responsible for any wrongs committed by its members/ organisers. The Mission Statement of Scouting Ireland is; to enable and empower young people to realise their potential through its core values based on the scout promise and law to foster active citizenship and create a better community. The ‘Scout Promise’ is a personal commitment to do ones best to follow Scouting’s principles and to live the ‘Scout Law’. The ‘Scout Law’ is a set of values which shapes a code of living which young people voluntarily adhere to in the Scout Movement.

Scouting Ireland is not a state body but it does receive significant public funding of close to €1 million a year. That public funding was suspended while Scouting Ireland undertook reviews and reforms of its child protection policies.

The organisation has an overall income of about €4 million per year, in or bout 30 paid staff, a board of up to 20 directors and hundreds of volunteers.

Scouting Ireland’s new board of directors was appointed last October - the previous board having stepped down at the request of Ms Zappone, due to the significant and ongoing governance concerns.

Recent developments, July 2019

As of July 2019 there are now 321 alleged victims identified, and 247 alleged perpetrators suspected of molesting children. It is believed, and has been reported, that some of the individuals facing allegations of abuse include senior figures who held high positions in the legacy scouting organisations. It has also been reported by the Irish Times that 40 of the suspected abusers are believed to have assaulted multiple victims.

To date no indications have been given by Scouting Ireland as to how they intend to deal with these matters, including whether or not assets may have to be sold to deal with the flood of claims that have surfaced.

Ian Elliot is at the time of writing finalising a full report on the historic abuse, looking at past failings of the organisation and setting out advices on how lessons can be learned and child safeguarding practices improved upon.

An ‘institutional apology’ is to be delivered by the organisation’s board when both the financial assessment of Scouting Ireland’s position and Mr Elliott’s report are completed.

The organisation has instructed solicitors to act on their behalf and to date there have been no indications that there is an appetite for early resolution of these claims.

As such, all Scouting Ireland cases being handled by this office are being prepared to go before the Courts. 

Author: Daniel O'Connell (02 July 2019)

Making contact with our office

If you have any questions arising from any of the above information, or if you have been affected in any way, please do not hesitate to contact Daniel O’Connell of this office at for a confidential chat in relation to same.