Organisation apologised to victims for its failings
Voluntary first-aid charity St John Ambulance (SJA) is facing a raft of legal actions from survivors of childhood sexual abuse, anticipated to cost the organisation hundreds of thousands of euro.
On Wednesday, the organisation apologised for its failings to victims of sexual abuse at the charity, noting its structures “facilitated grooming and predatory behaviour”.
It coincides with the release of an independent review into the handling of past complaints of abuse by SJA, led by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, which also examined the adequacy of current protection arrangements for children and vulnerable adults.
The Sunday Independent also understands that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) is now “examining the report in detail” as gardaí continue to pursue criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator of abuse. The former volunteer at the centre of the report is advanced in age and lives in Dublin.
More than 15 individuals have made retrospective disclosures of abuse to Dr Shannon and his team concerning the former volunteer. Some victims described lengthy campaigns of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
The review was commissioned by the organisation after several men came forward with claims of sexual abuse suffered as children at the hands of a senior figure in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin in the 1990s.
Mick Finnegan, (40), who first reported allegations against a named perpetrator to gardaí and the organisation more than 20 years ago, confirmed he has initiated a legal case.
“Of course this is not about money, it is about holding St John Ambulance accountable for robbing us of our childhoods,” he said. “There are 15 survivors who spoke to Dr Shannon about the abuse. But there are a lot more people out there.”
Paul Mulholland (46) said he was sexually abused by the same volunteer. He said he believed the perpetrator targeted more than 100 children over his 50-year career in the organisation. This weekend, Mr Mulholland called for the entire board of St John Ambulance to resign.
“The apology, it just feels a little bit too late. St John Ambulance had this report from Dr Shannon since November, and delayed in publishing it until Wednesday. I would question the timing of this,” he said. “I think what should happen now is that the board should all step down. Have they learned lessons? I don’t know.”
Mr Finnegan echoed these remarks, adding that the organisation’s decision to publish the report just days before St Patrick’s Day was “a blatant attempt to bury bad news”.