The sexual abuse of a young child is a most vile and horrific act. The life-changing trauma imposed forcibly on the child is lifelong. It takes an extraordinary degree of resilience, courage and dignity to survive and cope with the lifelong challenges imposed by such trauma. Unfortunately, this country has witnessed a terrible history of child sexual abuse within many institutions and families. That is why there is a fundamental moral obligation on the State to protect children and respond resolutely and transparently when allegations of child abuse emerge and incidents of child abuse occur, particularly within national organisations. I understand that during tonight's edition of "RTÉ Investigates", details of which have emerged, former scouts in the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scouting Association of Ireland who were abused will express their concern, annoyance and anger at the fact that Scouting Ireland is being allowed to carry out its own review of complaints of sexual abuse within the organisation. Last year Scouting Ireland stated in a briefing document that it gave to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, that the organisation's internal historical review had found that some perpetrators "moved from one local group to another" and "in one case moved between two different scouting organisations". The case of David O'Brien, a former scout leader and convicted sex offender, is an example of this practice. By his own admission, he had sexually abused up to 60 boys, most of whom were young cub scouts. He had evaded justice by moving around in the 1970s and 1980s. He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Paul O'Toole who has said:
That was the moment my childhood ended. It was where a normal childhood should have went on. But mine stopped.
Colm Bracken who was victimised by two scout leaders, including David O'Brien, has said the abuse was his first sexual experience. He continued:
They shattered my soul. They killed my soul.
It is clear from the Scouting Ireland briefing document that files went missing. It took many years for Scouting Ireland to commence the investigation. It has confirmed that there are indications in its internal review of "extensive, prolonged and organised child sexual abuse" and of how "adult members who preyed on children were protected". There were repeated failures to take effective action. There are approximately 400 alleged sexual abuse complaints, involving 247 alleged perpetrators. There is no question about the fact that Dr. Geoffrey Shannon agrees with the former scouts who were abused. In the light of the scale of the abuse that occurred, as revealed in "RTÉ Investigates", will the Taoiseach give a commitment that the Government will establish a transparent and independent statutory inquiry? Is the Government prepared to do this?