Scouting Ireland

Scouting Ireland (Irish: Gasóga na hÉireann) is one of the largest youth movements on the island of Ireland, a voluntary educational movement for young people with over 53,000 members in late 2018, including over 13,000 adult volunteers.[1] Of the 750,000 people between the ages of 6 and 18 in Ireland, over 6% are involved with the organisation. It was founded in 2004, following the amalgamation of two of the Scouting organisations on the island. It is the World Organization of the Scout Movement-recognised Scouting association in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland it operates alongside The Scout Association of the UK and the Baden-Powell Scout Association.

Scouting Ireland
HeadquartersLarch Hill
CountryRepublic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
Founded1 January 2004
FounderRichard P. Fortune (1908), Tom and Ernest Farrell (1927)
Membership53,000 (as of November 2018)
incl. 40,000 juvenile[1]
Chief ScoutChristy McCann
Chief ExecutiveJohn Lawlor Until January 2020[2]
Anne GriffinFrom January 2020[2]
PatronMichael D. Higgins
AffiliationWorld Organization of the Scout Movement
Neckerchiefs are used to identify Scouts from different groups, e.g. one group might wear blue and red, while another might wear yellow and blue.

The organisation is independent, non-political, and open to all young people without distinction of origin, race, creed, sexual orientation, spiritual belief or gender, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by Lord Baden-Powell and as stated by WOSM.[3] The aim of the organisation is to encourage the social, physical, intellectual, character, emotional, and spiritual development aspects (known as the SPICES) of young people "so that they may achieve their full potential and as responsible citizens, to improve society".[4][5] The process of founding the new organisation came on 21 June 2003, after a merger between Scouting Ireland C.S.I. and Scouting Ireland S.A.I. was announced, becoming effective on 1 January 2004.[3][6] Its national office is at Larch Hill, County Dublin.[3]

The association is headed by the Chief Scout, and governed by the National Council and the Board of Directors. A small professional staff team is led by a Chief Executive Officer.


The organisation is known for, and primarily operates through, its Youth Programme, for members aged between 6 and 25 years,[7] divided into the following Sections:

Sea Scouts – Sea Scouting is a model for implementing the Scout Method with an emphasis on maritime tradition, nautical skills and water-based activities. Sea Scouting operates throughout the sections, consistent with the above age ranges.


Scout Group

The basic unit of Scouting in Ireland is the Scout Group. Each Group is based around a single meeting point, often a dedicated Scout den but sometimes a school assembly hall or community facility, but may have a number of sections, meeting at different times, and may have more than one Scout Troop or Cub Scout Pack, for example. Each Group is coordinated by a Scout Group Council, headed up by the Group Leader and Deputy Group Leader, these roles being appointed by the Chief Commissioner (Adult Resources) based on nomination by the Scout Group Council and recommendation by the relevant Scout County Commissioner. Membership also includes roles such as Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and Quartermaster, and adult representatives of all sections, and youth representatives of the Scouts, Venture Scout and Rover Scout sections, made by the Scout Group Council itself. As of 2018, there are around 520 Scout Groups.[8]

Scout County

Scout Groups are members of their local Scout County, some are which based on geographical counties, while others, depending on membership density, are based in parts of cities or across county boundaries. The Scout County supports the training of Scouters, the youth programme, and the development of Groups within the County. Each Scout County is coordinated by a County Commissioner.

Scout Provinces

Above the Scout County level, Ireland is divided into six Scout Provinces, namely the Northern, Southern, North Eastern, South Eastern, Western and Dublin provinces. Each Province is coordinated by a Provincial Commissioner, who in turn appoints a Training Co-Ordinator as well as Youth Programme and International representatives. The Provincial Management / Support Committee consists of County Commissioners, Provincial Officers, co-ordinators and representatives. Each Province has a professional Provincial Support Officer.

National Council

The primary decision-making body of Scouting Ireland is called National Council, and it meets at least once a year. National Council is the body responsible for amendments to the movement's Rules and Constitution. It also elects the Chief Scout and members of the Board of Directors.[9]

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the non-executive oversight body between National Councils.[9] From 2018, it consists of 10 elected members,[9] and up to 3 co-opted members. It receives reports from Heads of Department and has the authority to create structures and appoint heads for those structures.

National Management Committee

From June 2003[10] until October 2018,[9] the National Management Committee (NMC) was the executive body which guided the association between National Council meetings. It made decisions relating to policies and strategies, and their implementation on behalf of National Council. The NMC, which included National and Provincial Commissioners, also handled representation of the organisation both nationally and internationally. The NMC also drove development of both the youth programme and materials to support the management of adult members and other supporters.[8]

The NMC had the same membership as the Board of the not-for-profit company acting for Scouting Ireland when appropriate, as of 2018 the association is in the process of merging with the company with the Board of Directors at the helm.

Chief Scout

The leader of the overall organization is the Chief Scout, who is its leading volunteer and public representative, chairs National Council and other bodies, and makes key awards. The Chief reports to the Board of Directors.

The first Chief Scout elected was Martin Burbridge, the former National Treasurer of Scouting Ireland (CSI). He was re-elected at National Council in 2007 for a second term which was due to end in 2010. For personal reasons Burbridge announced his resignation in August 2008, and the NMC elected Michael John Shinnick, the then Chief Commissioner for Adult Resources, as SI's second Chief Scout in September 2008.[10][11] He was elected by National Council in March 2009, and again in 2012, for a term to end in 2015.[12][13] Christy McCann was elected as SI's third Chief Scout in September 2015.[14][15] McCann was elected unopposed for a second term in April 2018.[16]

Youth participation in governance

A National Youth Forum is held each year with representatives from the Scout, Venture Scout and Rover Scout sections. Representatives debate motions relating to the running of the association and their own sections. Successful motions are carried forward to the relevant national bodies, including National Council. Each forum elects 9 representatives who then represent the interests of youth members on various committees throughout their term of office (generally one year).

Other national committees

National groups include the National Youth Programme Committee and the National Adult Resources Committee.

Professional staff

A staff of administrative and support professionals are led by Scouting Ireland's Chief Executive Officer, John Lawlor, based in the National Office at the Larch Hill campsite.[17]



Scouting Ireland has its history in two legacy Scouting organisations — the Scout Association of Ireland (SAI), formerly known as the Boy Scouts of Ireland, and the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI). The former traces its roots to 1908, and the latter was founded in 1927 – both trace their legacy to Lord Baden-Powell's Scout Movement.

By 1908, the influence of Baden-Powell's Scout Movement had spread from Great Britain to Ireland. The first recorded meeting of Scouts in Ireland took place at the home of Richard P. Fortune, a Royal Naval Volunteer Reservist, at 3 Dame Street, Dublin on 15 February 1908 where four boys were enrolled in the Wolf Patrol of the 1st Dublin Troop. The earliest known Scouting event in Ireland took place in the Phoenix Park in 1908 with members of the Dublin City Boy Scouts (later Scouting Ireland S.A.I.) taking part.

Because of the impacts to available adult leadership, the coming of the Great War in 1914 could have affected the viability of Scouting in Ireland. Scouts contributed to the war effort in several ways, with the Sea Scouts supporting the RN Coastguard.

In Dublin in the 1920s, two Roman Catholic priests, Fathers Tom and Ernest Farrell, followed the progress of Scouting. They noted that in other countries, the Catholic Church had taken up the idea of Scouting as a means of imprinting a Catholic ethos on young people. After some study and experimentation, they made a proposal to the Catholic Hierarchy of Ireland and were granted a constitution and Episcopal patronage in November 1926. Thus, the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) (Gasóga Catoilici na hÉireann) was created. CBSI would later become the largest Scout association on the island.

Parallel operations

Although the two associations cooperated, particularly in international contexts, these two separate Scouting organisations (SAI and the much larger CBSI) operated as separate entities through the latter half of the 20th century.

2004 Merger

On 1 January 2004, the two organisations were merged to form 'Scouting Ireland'. Each organisation had added 'Scouting Ireland' to their names in the decade before the merger.[18][19] The merger was sanctioned in May 2003, when both associations agreed to join together to form a new single association. This in turn had followed from decisions in 1998 to set this process in motion.[6][20]

As of November 2018, Scouting Ireland had over 53,000 members across the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, where it works in tandem with the Scout Association in Northern Ireland (SANI), which is part of The Scout Association in the United Kingdom. Over 40,000 were juvenile members, and 13,000 adult volunteers.

Controversies, 2017- present

Safeguarding issues resulted in controversy in 2017 and 2018, though the organisation and individual Scout Groups emphasised that operations continued as usual.

2017 review

In July 2017, Scouting Ireland commissioned a review of the handling of child protection cases, which included an initial check on a small sample of more serious allegations. Arising from this review, led by safeguarding specialist Ian Elliott, a recommendation was made in November 2017 that the files on all historic cases of alleged abuse be further checked, in particular to understand if persons against whom allegations were made were still active in the organisation. The review did not make any assessment of allegations, major or minor, but noted areas for improvement in handling such cases, such as "without prejudice" suspensions instead of the then-operational "voluntary stepping aside" approach, and a recommendation against lobbying by accusees, which it concluded was happening in some cases. It was also reported that there were sometimes tensions between professional staff and volunteers, with the former feeling pressure from volunteers, while some volunteers perceived "heavy-handed" treatment of some allegations.[21]

The organisation made changes to its processes in response to the work of Elliott, including implementation of the “suspension without prejudice” concept, pending investigation, and plans for recruitment of a safeguarding co-ordinator and additional child-protection officers.[21]

2009 case and funding suspension

The historic handling of one case, dating back to 2009, and concerning an allegation by a then-18 year old volunteer against an older volunteer, caused particular concern in public and governmental circles, and resulted, in April 2018, in the suspension of the remainder of Irish State funding pending discussions with the relevant department.[21] With the State funding accounting for one third of the organisation's budget, the suspension had a serious effect. The Taoiseach himself commented on the handling of this case, and the Irish Times published an editorial on the handling of related matters.

Officers stepping aside temporarily

Four senior figures in Scouting Ireland voluntarily stepped away temporarily from their roles in mid-April 2018, pending a barrister-led review of certain matters. Still standing aside as of November 2018, these are the Chief Scout, re-elected in early April 2018, two Chief Commissioners, and a member of National Management Committee.[22]

Governance changes and funding restorations

The Minister Children partially restored State funding in June 2018. Funding was again suspended when the Chief Scout was invited to chair an EGM called to reform governance structures, and again restored after the meeting voted in favour of proposed changes, and the entire Board stood down, allowing a completely new Board to be elected.[1]

Cases raised, November 2018

In November 2018 Scouting Ireland officials and the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone noted to the relevant committee of the Oireachtas that a study of the organisation's records, and contacts from alleged victims, had revealed allegations related to abuse incidents, most notably from the 1960s to the 1980s. Most alleged abusers are dead, but where alleged abusers are living, Scouting Ireland has reported the allegations the Garda Síochána and Ireland's child protection agency, Tusla. To date, there was evidence of 108 alleged child sex abuse victims, from more than 400,000 members, and 71 alleged abusers (of whom 14 may have abused multiple children), out of more than 30,000 adult volunteers. Both records review and contacts are ongoing, and the numbers are likely to rise somewhat. The Minister noted that no alleged abuser is currently in Scouting Ireland.[23][24]


Campsites and Scout centres in Scouting Ireland may be operated by local groups, with a number owned centrally and managed by the national organisation itself. Larch Hill in Tibradden, Co. Dublin, and Lough Dan near Roundwood, Co. Wicklow were inherited from Scouting Ireland (CSI) and Scouting Ireland S.A.I. as national campsites. Other nationally owned campsites include Mount Melleray Scout Centre in the Knockmealdown Mountains near Cappoquin, Co. Waterford and Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre, a new campsite in Co. Cavan, as well as a water activity centre in Killaloe, Co. Clare. Locally run campsites include Kilcully, Co. Cork, Collon, Co. Louth, Dundrum International Scout Campsite, Dundrum, Co. Tipperary, and Glendale Lodge, Glencree, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.[25][26][27]

Participation in international Scouting

The organisation and its legacy associations have been strongly represented in international forums for many years. As of 2018, Scouting Ireland is the sole World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM)-recognised body in the Republic of Ireland, and works with the Scout Association in Northern Ireland (which also has a Baden-Powell Scout Association group). In 2014, Scouting Ireland won the bid to host the 16th World Scout Moot an international Jamboree style event for Rover Scouts, which is due to take place in the summer of 2021 - it will be the first world event to be held in Ireland.


In 1965, CBSI joined with SAI to form the Federation of Irish Scout Associations, FISA. Through FISA, Irish Scouts were able to play a full part in international Scouting. Prior to this, because the WOSM traditionally recognises only one Scouting body in each country, only SAI had been recognised by WOSM (since 1949).[28] Similarly, the Northern Irish Scout Council (NISC) had observer status in the Federation, as CBSI's membership extended across the 32 counties on the island of Ireland and WOSM usually only recognises associations that observe political boundaries.

A number of Irish people have held office at international level, including as Chairman of the European Scout Committee and as Vice Chairman of the World Scout Committee. Howard E. Kilroy served as Chairman of the World Scout Foundation's Investment Committee.[29] In 2001 John Geoghegan was appointed director of the World Scout Foundation[30]

Individuals recognized

Five Irish Scouts have been awarded World Scouting's only award, the Bronze Wolf Award by the World Scout Committee, Edward J. Montgomery (1977), Desmond Fay (1984), Jeremiah Kelly (1985), Howard Kilroy (2010) and Therese Bermingham (2015).


Scouting Ireland hosted Jamboree 2008, its first international Jamboree, from 2–10 August 2008.[31] It was held at Punchestown Racecourse, County Kildare with the aim of celebrating one hundred years of Scouting in Ireland.[31] Around 12,500 Irish and overseas Scouts attended the event.[31] The next Scouting Ireland National Jamboree, "JamboRí 2018" was held in 2018 at Stradbally, Co. Laois, with 4,000 in attendance.[32][33]


Scouting Ireland has a number of international partnerships, including with the Lesotho Scouts Association,[34] and with Denmark's largest Scout Association, Det Danske Spejderkorps.[35]

National policies

The organisation has a wide range of national policies, largely set by National Council and overseen by the Board of Directors. In addition to policies on finance, personnel, uniforms and facilities, these include documents on the Youth Programme, risk and crisis management, adult resource management, and safeguarding.

Risk and crisis management

The organisation has a risk management strategy and policy, an anti-fraud policy, a whistle blower policy, and a crisis management policy.[36]

Adult resources

There are policies on adults in Scouting, adults working with young people, and recognition for adult contributors.


Scouting Ireland has a Code of Good Practice, Garda vetting and Northern Ireland access policies, and guidance on reporting, social media and drug incidents.[37]

See also


  1. Power, Jack (1 November 2018). "Scouting Ireland funding is restored for six months". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 22 November 2018. Government restores grants on condition the organisation reforms child protection rules
  3. "Scouts Link across the Border". The News Letter. 1 January 2004. Retrieved 6 March 2015 via Questia.
  4. "Scouting in a Nutshell". 2017. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017.
  5. "Scouting Ireland Constitution" (PDF). Scouting Ireland. 2017. section 3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 December 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  6. "The creation of Scouting Ireland" (PDF). World Organization of the Scout Movement. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2006.
  7. "Scouting Ireland - InSIde Out" (PDF). Scouting Ireland. April 2013. p. 8. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  8. "Scouting Ireland - Organisation Structure". Scouting Ireland. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  9. "Scouting Ireland appoints new directors to board". RTÉ. 6 October 2018. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018.
  10. Martin Burbridge (12 August 2008). "Letter from Chief Scout to the NMC on his impending Resignation". Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  11. "New Chief Scout Elected". Scouting Ireland. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  12. "First Minister meets new Chief Scout". Archived from the original on 16 July 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  13. "PRESS RELEASE - SCOUTING IRELAND ELECTS CHIEF SCOUT FOR SECOND TERM". Scouting Ireland. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  14. Scouting Ireland official [@ScoutingIreland] (12 September 2015). "Chief Scout Christy McCann delivering his first address as Scouting Ireland's new Chief Scout! #ScoutsIE" (Tweet). Retrieved 12 September 2015 via Twitter.
  15. Scouting Ireland [@ScoutingIreland] (18 April 2015). "The NMC will appoint a chairperson for the National Team of Policy Implementation until an emergency national Council is organised #NC15" (Tweet). Retrieved 20 April 2015 via Twitter.
  16. "AGM of the National Council 2018 - Election Results" (PDF). 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 July 2018.
  17. "Scouting Ireland appoint new CEO \date=1 March 2012". Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  18. Godison, Lisa (19 May 2002). "Designer Ireland; No 132". Sunday Times. p. 17.  via Academic OneFile (subscription required)
  19. "Scouting's future". Irish Times. 10 May 2003. p. 15.  via Infotrac Newsstand (subscription required)
  20. McGarry, Patsy (12 May 2003). "Wide welcome as Scouts join forces". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015 via HighBeam Research.
  21. Power, Jack (21 April 2018). "Scouting Ireland faces Pandora's box of historic abuse cases". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  22. Power, Jack (20 April 2018). "Four senior Scouting Ireland figures step aside". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  23. No reference is made to Northern Ireland police or other authorities in the references available to date on the matter as a whole, or the specific November 2018 update
  24. Power, Jack. "Scouting Ireland child abuse cases expected to rise 'quite considerably'". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 22 November 2018. Audit reveals details of 71 alleged abusers ‘none of which are still working in organisation.’ ... Most cases related to incidents between the 1960s and 1980s, and the majority of alleged abusers are deceased.
  25. "Ventact". Ventact Team. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
  26. "County Tipperary Campsites". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  27. "County Wicklow Campsites". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  28. "Some statistics". World Organization of the Scout Movement. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007.
  29. "Annual Report 2010" (pdf). World Scout Foundation. 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  30. "Mr John Geoghegan". World Scout Foundation. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  31. Campbell, Paula (8 August 2008). "Rain stops play for scouts at Punchestown". Leinster Leader. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  32. "Scouting Ireland to host largest gathering of young people in ireland at JamboRí in Laois". Leinster Express. 23 July 2018. Archived from the original on 23 July 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  33. Kiernan, Lynda (26 July 2018). "WATCH: Electric Picnic site is hosting 4,000 kids camping for Scouting Ireland JamboRÍ". Leinster Express. Archived from the original on 27 July 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  34. "Signing of MOU". Facebook. Scouting Ireland. 3 January 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  35. "Nyt fra korpsledelsen: Irland som samarbejdsland, nye politikker og KRM" [New from the corps leadership: Ireland as a partner country, new policies and KRM]. (in Danish). Det Danske Spejderkorps. 29 June 2017. Archived from the original on 24 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  36. "Scouting Ireland - Risk Management". Scouting Ireland. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  37. "Scouting Ireland - policies and procedures - Safeguarding". Scouting Ireland. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
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