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Over 100 children 'badly wronged' by Scouts in litany of alleged abuse

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Children Minister Katherine Zappone made the historic revelations about Scouting Ireland

Children Minister Katherine Zappone made the historic revelations about Scouting Ireland

Children Minister Katherine Zappone made the historic revelations about Scouting Ireland

There are fears that the number of historic alleged child abuse cases involving scouting organisations is set to skyrocket.

It comes after a review found evidence of 71 suspected abusers and 108 victims, mostly dating from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Children Minister Katherine Zappone revealed the shocking numbers at an Oireachtas committee where she described the situation as "devastating" and "extremely distressing".

Scouting Ireland said none of the alleged abusers was still working with the organisation and most of them had died.

Reports have been made to the gardai and Tusla over suspected perpetrators.

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell, who chairs the Children's Committee, said the revelations were deeply concerning and it was "cold comfort" that the cases were historic.

Compensation

"We are deeply sorry for the hurt that has been caused by the actions of some past members of Scouting Ireland and its legacy organisations," said Scouting Ireland's new chairperson, Aisling Kelly.

She promised "a comprehensive and compassionate response to those that were so badly wronged in the past".

Scouting Ireland has been at the centre of controversy over its governance and has seen State funding withheld on a number of occasions in recent months.

Questions have now arisen over whether the financially-stretched organisation can support abuse victims and offer possible compensation in response to legal action.

Senator Joan Freeman told the committee she feared there would be a "vast amount" of victims now the information was public.

Child safeguarding expert Ian Elliot has been probing records held by Scouting Ireland.

Some were handwritten notes of a "very limited nature" that required further investigation.

He told the committee that other sources on the number of cases came from individuals within Scouting Ireland who shared concerns with him as well as from victims who contacted the organisation.

Mr Elliot said one "very serious perpetrator" did not have a file and was discovered only after a victim came forward.

He said 108 people had suffered "as a result of situations which they should never have been exposed to".

Mr Elliot said victims told of abuse at camping events and jamborees. He said 14 of the alleged abusers had multiple victims.

He told TDs and senators that he didn't believe the final figures had been uncovered and they would "probably rise quite considerably".

He said most of the victims were still alive and Scouting Ireland's new board of directors had adopted a victims' policy.

Safe

Labour TD Sean Sherlock asked Ms Kelly if Scouting Ireland was considering the potential need for financial compensation for victims.

She said the ring-fencing of a general compensation fund was "something that we will have to explore", but added: "Finances are an issue for us."

She confirmed that there was outstanding litigation relating to alleged abuse but declined to offer any details on the number of cases.

Ms Kelly later insisted in a statement that safeguarding children was Scouting Ireland's "number one priority".

"We cannot change the past but we can make sure that this organisation is a safe environment for all our members now and into the future," she added.


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