St John Ambulance failed to investigate claims children were being sexually abused despite a “well-established” awareness of the threat to child safety.
An independent review of the organisation's handling of child sex abuse complaints has found “a significant degree of organisational awareness” of serious threats to children for years.
The report by Dr Geoffrey Shannon found that the body failed to take any action on the claims – and warned that its structure and culture “facilitated” the potential grooming of children.
A former senior figure in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin is alleged to have sexually abused more than 15 boys in the organisation, between the late 1960s and late 1990s.
“It’s not enough.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) March 16, 2023
Despite a “well-established” awareness in the organisation of “specific threats to child safety” by the early 1990s, St John Ambulance failed to act against the alleged abuser, which the report said was “a serious failure” of its ethical duty.
The investigation concluded that there had been “significant suspicions” that the Old Kilmainham division “posed potential serious threats” to children and the organisation’s failure to take action was down to fear of being sued and to protect the organisation’s reputation.
This afternoon, a man who was sexually abused as a child by a senior member of the organisation said the apology does not go far enough.
"It's not enough"
Mick Finnegan Told Newstalk he wants board members to resign.
“It’s not enough,” he said. “It’s not enough because the same people that are in charge now were in charge when I was a child.”
“When you think about the personal cost that myself and others went through, what we experienced – the abuse, the grooming, the rape.
“Being marginalised and not being believed, to the DPP not prosecuting and just people generally not believing us and what happened.
“It’s not enough.”
The report documents concerns dating right back to the early 1970s but also warns that the organisation’s child protection measures were inadequate right up until the mid-2010s.
Meanwhile, it warns that the organisation’s garda vetting system is incomplete and could still allow unvetted adults to gain access to children
Mr Finnegan said the board of directors and commissioner should resign along with any senior officers that were around at that time.
He also called for a complete overhaul of the leadership structure.
He said actions need to be taken immediately to protect any children currently involved with the organisation, noting that the report highlights current safeguarding concerns.
He said it would be great if his abuser could face criminal justice but noted, “That’s not my decision to make, that is ultimately the director of public prosecution”.
With reporting from Michael Staines.
If you are affected by anything discussed in this article, you can contact the CARI Care Line on 0818 924567.
You can also contact the National 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline on 1800 77 8888.