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Editorial: 'Scouts' survival depends on winning back parents' trust'

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: PA Archive

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: PA Archive

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: PA Archive

Childhood memories, both good and bad, tend to be for life. The vast majority of those who went on scouting trips will remember the untrammelled freedom of being away from home, over-night camps and fireside sing-songs with mugs of tea.

The joy of being alone with friends telling ghost stories late into the night... What made any and all of this possible was trust that those who were in charge would make sure all were safe. Sadly, that trust has been shattered and rebuilding it demands we do better.

The news Scouting Ireland has been ordered to reconsider organising overnight trips and review how children in its care are supervised in the wake of sex abuse allegations may not be surprising, but it is deeply disturbing.

To date, 313 alleged complaints in relation to historic abuse at Scouting Ireland have been made, relating to 237 people suspected of alleged abuse.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has revealed Tusla - the child and family agency - has written to Scouting Ireland chiefs recommending changes to how children are supervised.

A review of how it manages disclosures about child protection concerns is also advised.

The minister has also promised "very robust action". Many will be astounded such measures were not already in place.

For those who had happy experiences, the remembering is always easy. Unfortunately, for those who may have been hurt, abused or preyed upon, it can often be more about forgetting.

A raft of disclosures has raised enormous questions for all concerned. Parents and volunteers will have grave reservations about getting involved with the organisation unless they know the safeguarding and protection of children is at its core.

It is impossible to understand how anything but the most stringent supervisory standards could not already be in place.

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Childhood, they say, is a kingdom where nobody dies; it would be tragic if the innocent joy of overnight trips away was killed off because adults could no longer be relied upon to keep children safe.

It ought not be too much to ask of us to establish the necessary vetting procedures and controls to keep children from harm. Whatever changes are required, they have to be enforced.

They say to grow up is to wonder about things, but to be grown up too often means to lose the connection with that sense of wonder. Yet that sense is more precious than we know, and should be nurtured and cherished.

As JM Barrie wrote: "On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more."

If the organisation is to recover and find its way back, then nothing less than total co-operation with all of Ms Zappone's demands will suffice.

Baden-Powell believed scouting should be nothing less than applied Christianity. If that was the ideal, we seem to have strayed a long way from it.


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