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 Header Item Scouting Ireland: Statements (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2019: Message from Select Committee

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 991 No. 2

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  10 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart] Her words were broadly positive and cautious in regard to the work that has been done. She rightly identified the fact there are many in this House who have been vigilant in respect of Scouting Ireland and its response, particularly its initial poor response, to the accusations and findings of that famous "RTÉ Investigates" programme. She also acknowledged the fact this type of public scrutiny, and the type of scrutiny that has gone on in this House, is appropriate. The reason people elect us to represent them in their communities is that we keep them safe, we bring in laws and scrutinise those organisations that ought to be scrutinised, and we do not let up on that and we remain vigilant in that regard, as Deputy Rabbitte has been vigilant.

The Minister made many positive comments in regard to the progress Scouting Ireland has made and which must be acknowledged. It is a very difficult time for the organisation and for the executives of the organisation in having to trawl through the many hundreds of files that have been identified in regard to the perpetrating of sexual abuse on young, innocent children. Their parents set them off on what ought to have been a journey of liberation and joy to enjoy with their friends and their peers, yet it was to turn so sour for them and then to be buried for so long. It is not the first time in our history this has happened, as the Minister said.

The Minister acknowledged there are Members on different sides of the House who, for reasons outlined by Deputy Rabbitte, are looking for a statutory inquiry, and the Minister also acknowledged she is open to consideration of that. With the greatest of respect to everybody who has been involved, and notwithstanding the reputations of those who have been involved, anybody knows that when an organisation, or even a tiny part of it, has come into disrepute, the recovery of that organisation cannot be contaminated in any way by any individual, or by the fact they may have operated in a previous capacity with that organisation. It is for that compelling reason and so the parents of this country, the parents in our constituencies, who are the greatest protectors of their children, can know that when this torrid story is finally complete, they will know that the steps that are being taken are being taken with the greatest efficacy and independence and without any contamination in terms of motive, although I am not ascribing any motive to anybody. The clear implication is that only such a statutory inquiry, carried out by somebody who has never had anything to do any of the organisations involved, is one that will satisfy the public. Let us remember the public purse also has to be protected in regard to Scouting Ireland.

In saying that, I also welcome that the Minister has taken the weighty decision, and it is a burdensome decision for any Minister, to continue funding for Scouting Ireland until April 2020. Therefore, it is a step-by-step recovery of the organisation's reputation and it is a tribute to those who are managing it and involved in it. There is just this last little step that has to be taken to ensure the organisation knows it has the absolute confidence of all of those stakeholders it engages with.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, I thank the Deputies for their contributions. The Minister regrets she is not available to be here in person. I take the opportunity to respond to a number of issues that have been raised, both last week by Deputy Rabbitte and again today by her and many others.

With regard to Ian Elliott's review of historical abuse, Mr. Elliott is a very highly respected expert in the area of child protection and safeguarding and he has a reputation for rigour and plain speaking. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, will give Mr. Elliott's analysis of historical abuse in legacy scouting organisations very careful consideration when it is shared with her in February next year. It will also be shared with the joint Oireachtas committee. If the joint Oireachtas committee comes to the conclusion that Mr. Elliott's report might itself benefit from being independently reviewed, then the Minister will, of course, consider this.

Regarding the call for a statutory inquiry, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is giving very careful thought to the suggestion of establishing a statutory inquiry to investigate historical abuse within legacy scouting organisations and the Government will make a decision on the best way to proceed as soon as possible. It will be important to ensure that any inquiry is an appropriate tool which will lead to the outcomes that are envisaged and the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is very mindful of the remarks made by Mr. Justice Charleton in the third interim report of the disclosures tribunal to the effect that a tribunal is a final resort. Mr. Justice Charleton further stated: "when a public controversy arises, the first option should be always to ask whether there are structures in place within the administration of public life which can enable facts to be found with such degree of certainty as to enable satisfaction at a reasonable level that the truth has been discovered." We must also ensure that any inquiry does not interfere with or prejudice any other ongoing processes, such as civil or criminal proceedings.

The Minister was happy to hear in a recent written progress report from Scouting Ireland that it had implemented all of Ms Jillian van Turnhout's recommendations that were laid out in her report of June 2018. The Minister was pleased to report that Ms van Turnhout has agreed to meet again with Scouting Ireland in the new year to further discuss its implementation of her recommendations. As Scouting Ireland said yesterday, it is open to scrutiny and the Minister welcomes this openness and transparency as we move to improve confidence further in the organisation's governance and safeguarding.

It is important to have access to accurate figures when it comes to the numbers of case files held, the general nature of the content of these files and the further reporting that has taken place. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, notes that Scouting Ireland agreed to provide further clarity to the joint Oireachtas committee regarding this and she understands that it wrote last week to the Chairman and committee members to this end.

With regard to disciplinary proceedings following the independent barrister's report, the Minister is aware that the disciplinary proceedings that followed Lorna Lynch's independent report have taken some time to progress. While this can be frustrating, it is important to ensure that due process is followed and all parties have access to appropriate right of reply, as per the principles of natural justice. The Minister understands that a timeframe is difficult to be certain about but, from last week's committee discussion, it looks like we might expect a conclusion to these proceedings early in the new year.

In her statement on Thursday last week, Deputy Rabbitte raised the issue of the adult volunteer who was suspended in 2018, the same person raised in the "RTÉ Investigates" programme as having had complaints made against them in the 1980s and 1990s. The Minister has sought clarity from Scouting Ireland regarding this issue. Scouting Ireland has this week reported to her officials that it cannot provide any detail on this case as it could potentially prejudice the ongoing legal process and-or the ongoing investigations being conducted by Tusla or An Garda Síochána. Scouting Ireland has confirmed, however, that all disclosures made to the child protection and safeguarding personnel in Scouting Ireland were indeed reported to State agencies, as required, and any advice or recommendations received from these agencies relating to these reported disclosures were absolutely followed. Additionally, Scouting Ireland confirmed that all reportable cases identified in the 2012 review were confirmed as reported to the appropriate authorities.

Estimates for Public Services 2019: Message from Select Committee

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Select Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimates for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2019 - Vote 32.

  The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 December 2019.

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