Scouting Ireland's Chief Scout says temporarily stepping aside is 'right thing to do'

Katherine Zappone earlier said she is not satisfied with the governance standards in the organisation

Scouting Ireland's Chief Scout says temporarily stepping aside is 'right thing to do'

Chief Scout Christy McCann. Image: Scouting Ireland via Facebook

Updated 19.45

Scouting Ireland's Chief Scout has confirmed he is temporarily stepping aside, pending the completion of an investigation into the organisation's handling of a sexual abuse allegation.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone earlier said she is "not satisfied" with Scouting Ireland's governance standards.

It comes following concerns over how the organisation handled an allegation of sexual assault in 2016, which was in relation to an incident which allegedly took place in 2009.

It has been reported that the DPP decided not to proceed with a prosecution, and the alleged offender was promoted some months later. 

It's also claimed that the accused member was allowed to return to his role without proper Garda vetting. 

A barrister is currently conducting a full independent investigation of the allegation, as well as the handling of the matter by senior members of the organisation.

Minister Zappone is due to meet with representatives of the organisation this evening, and she said the Chief Scout will be temporarily stepping aside until the independent investigation is completed.

The organisation's treasurer will serve as acting chair of the board in the Chief Scout's absence.

In a statement, Chief Scout Christy McCann said: "I believe it is in the best interests of our organisation that I [step aside] in order to give adequate time to bring our investigation to a conclusion, noting a deadline of the end of May 2018.

"As Chief Scout and as a co-respondent in the process currently underway, I believe my standing aside is the right thing to do and will help ensure the current process is allowed to continue without delay and further distraction.  

He added: "I intend to co-operate fully with any process which is important to ensuring all of us within the organisation and the public in general, can have confidence in our safeguarding procedures."

'I am not satisfied'

The Children's Minister confirmed to TDs this afternoon that state funding is currently being held back from Scouting Ireland.

She explained: "I decided to withhold any further draw down of funding to Scouting Ireland, until such time that I can be satisfied that the organisation's governance standards are up to the required level.

"As of now, I am not satisfied - and I have a responsibility to children, and I have a responsibility for the use of public monies."

Scouting Ireland, which has around 50,000 members, received funding of more than €870,000 last year.

Minister Zappone said the group is currently funded until June, saying she hopes the organisation will 'engage constructively' with her department over the coming months.