Tusla should come before Oireachtas Children’s Committee to discuss St John Ambulance - Funchion

Sinn Féin TD and committee chair said there needs to be independent oversight of changes at first aid organisation

Tusla, the child and family agency, should come before the Oireachtas Children’s Committee to discuss the “serious questions” raised by it having “no concerns” about standards in St John Ambulance, chair of the committee Kathleen Funchion has said.

Sinn Féin TD Ms Funchion was speaking after an independent investigation by Dr Geoffrey Shannon SC into the voluntary first aid organisation detailed serious failings in how it responded to alleged child abuse in the past, as well as concerns with current practices.

A former senior officer in its 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.

The report from Dr Shannon, published on Thursday, found there was a “significant degree of organisational awareness” of the dangers posed by the alleged perpetrator at the time.


St John Ambulance failed to investigate concerns children were being sexually abused in the first aid organisation for years, in part to try to protect its reputation, the independent investigation has found.

The former chief executive of Tusla previously said the State agency had no concerns about historical child sexual abuse in St John Ambulance, or current protection standards in the first aid organisation.

Speaking on RTE Radio’s This Week on Sunday, Ms Funchion said this “raises some very serious questions” and the committee “hope to have that discussion with Tusla”.

“We can’t have a situation going forward where procedures are signed off on but then there isn’t any role or power for somebody to follow up and in a year’s time or six months time come in and audit those procedures,” she said.

“We have that type of process in our health system with Hiqa, so do we need to look at introducing something like that for organisations involved with children whether they have State funding or not... We do need to look at that”.

To ensure St John Ambulance delivers on changes in child safeguarding practices going forward, Ms Funchion said she “definitely” thinks there needs to be “independent oversight [of the charity]”.

“I think it’s really important that those reforms are delivered,” she said, adding that the question of who would do it was “a wider question for the Minister for Children and the Department of Children”.

“In the meantime, we need to engage with survivors and look at the recommendations of the report and see who might be best placed”.

The board of St John’s Ambulance also needed to be replaced as there was little confidence in their ability to implement the necessary child safeguarding procedures at this point, she said.

“I think at this point the board needs to be replaced. They need to step down and we need to see a new board coming into place. I personally would not have confidence and the wider public would not have confidence either”.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times