Tusla must answer ‘serious questions’ on their safeguarding procedures following a report on sexual abuse at St John Ambulance, two Fine Gael Senators have said.
Senator Mary Seery-Kearney and Senator Regina Doherty said the St John Ambulance service is not fit to continue in its current format and said Tusla’s procedures of inquiry and investigation must be reviewed as a matter of urgency after a series of serious shortcomings were highlighted in the report by Dr Geoffrey Shannon.
Senator Regina Doherty said: “While I am glad that survivors of abuse within St. John Ambulance have been totally vindicated today by Professor Geoffrey Shannon’s report, serious systemic failures of multiple management teams within St. John Ambulance, over many years, raise questions about whether that organisation is even fit to continue.
“Only three years ago, the then head of Tusla assured us that there were no live issues within St. John Ambulance and their child protection governance was fit for purpose, yet a serious allegation made as late as 2016 still resulted in no changes being made.
“We were told that all was in order when it was clearly not. It is still not in order.
“The manner in which the board of St. John’s has treated survivors over the past four months with the delay in the publishing of this report is nothing short of despicable. It shows their contempt and continual prioritisation of their own reputations’ protection.
“St. John’s has experienced severe, self-inflicted, reputational damage. It leads one to think it is incapable of change. I think it goes without saying that the board should resign, but is it time the whole organisation was shut down?
“St. John’s was not a standalone offender. Other agencies of the State have a lot to answer for too. The DPP let down the victims that came their way for justice. Tusla failed the survivors by allowing an organisation that was not fit for purpose to continue to have access to children unencumbered.
“So much was at odds with best practise, and this was clear to see in Professor Shannon’s report.
“Many questions have been raised by Dr Geoffrey Shannon which require immediate answers but we owe him a debt of gratitude for his duty of care to survivors whom he has done proud”, Senator Doherty said.
Senator Seery-Kearney, who sits on the Oireachtas Children’s Committee, said: “We must convene a special sitting of the Committee to respond to the contents of the Dr Geoffrey Shannon report on sexual abuse in the St. John Ambulance service.
“In 2019, Tusla wrote in response to a query on behalf of the then Minister that there were no current concerns in respect of the St. John Ambulance and they deemed the organisation’s safeguarding statement to be compliant.
“However, Dr Shannon found that there were ongoing issues with regard to the procedures on reporting, vetting and safeguarding as well as the historical abject incompetence and neglect of children, leaving them vulnerable to predatory grooming and sexual abuse.
“This calls into question the adequacy of Tusla’s procedures of inquiry and investigation. If this is how they acted with regard to the St. John Ambulance service, how can we have confidence in them with regard to any other entity they review for child safeguarding?
“They must be urgently called to account for the competence of their procedures.
“I am asking that we convene an emergency sitting of the Committee at the earliest possible time,” Senator Seery-Kearney concluded.