Many of us have been members of Scouting Ireland during the years and there is no doubt that the leaders and volunteers in that organisation do fantastic work in communities across the country. However, the revelations dating from last January of complaints of sexual assault made by a woman in 2009, when she was 18 years old, have opened up a new insidious and grotesque litany of sexual abuse cases over many decades in the scouting movement. The abuse occurred mostly when children were on trips. Scouting Ireland's handling of the initial allegation was, in the words of Mr. Ian Elliott, one of the experts in this area, deeply flawed. The initial allegation has been followed by a full review of historical cases which found that there were 71 alleged abusers and 108 victims between the 1960s and 1980s alone and that there were also incidents in more recent times. We must remember not to focus on the numbers but rather on the fact that each one represents a person or a family who has been affected. Mr. Elliott confirmed all of this to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs yesterday. He also said the work was incomplete and that the numbers were likely to rise. Everyone in this House agrees that this is reprehensible and the sooner we can get the full facts the better. One in Four, a group with expertise in this area, has described the figures as astonishing.
A huge number of people are affected. They were much younger when they suffered the abuse and may not have come forward with their story and are holding on to what happened to them. They have held on to it for many years. Mr. Elliot outlined how 14 of the alleged perpetrators had multiple victims. He discovered that there was one serious perpetrator, of whom Scouting Ireland had no knowledge and on whom there was no file. There have been many enforced changes to Scouting Ireland since the initial inquiry. We hope the initial Government arrangements are robust enough to ensure any further allegation of abuse will be reported under the current legislation and that those who make reports under it will be given the support they need. Families and the children involved want this to happen to allow them to have security and their voices to be heard in this debate. It will also help them to come forward.
Given the seriousness of this issue, is the Minister satisfied with the process involved, how the allegations were examined and that known victims have access to full counselling services and any other support they require? What processes is the Government putting in place to allow people to come forward who might not otherwise come forward and are they being allowed to do so on a confidential basis? Has the Minister, Deputy Zappone, met him to ensure An Garda Síochána will be involved at every level to assist and support victims? Will the Government give consideration to the establishment of a specific helpline to allow people to come forward in confidence and provide the security and help they need?