Tánaiste would be ‘surprised’ if St John’s Ambulance reforms not being ‘followed through’

TDs raise concerns of survivors of sexual abuse that recommendations published more than a year ago have not yet been implemented

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said he would be “somewhat surprised” if recommendations were not being “followed through”, on the implementation of reforms in St John’s Ambulance Ireland following a child sexual abuse scandal.

The Tánaiste made the remarks in the Dáil after Independent TD Thomas Pringle raised the concerns of abuse survivors who more than a year after a review on the scandal was published, are still waiting for its recommendations to be implemented.

“It is completely unacceptable that this has been allowed to continue. Survivors have already been through so much,” he said.

Mr Pringle’s comments echoed those made in the Seanad on Wednesday by Independent Senator Tom Clonan, who had also been contacted by survivors concerned that reforms had not been implemented and described the outcome as “an insult to survivors and compounds their moral distress”.


More than 16 boys were allegedly sexually abused by one former senior figure in the organisation’s Old Kilmainham division in Dublin between the early 1960s and late 1990s.

A review into the allegations of historic sexual abuse at the charity was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, a senior counsel and former Government special rapporteur on child protection, who in a subsequent report recommended that the charity overhaul its hierarchical culture and hire a professional child protection officer.

Mr Pringle said he had raised the issue in February when “it had been nearly a year since the publication of the damning report but that survivors were still waiting on St. John Ambulance to implement the recommendations”.

And they are still waiting, the Donegal TD said, adding that it was “disgraceful” that they had to fight to ensure those recommendations are implemented.

Mr Martin said he would talk to the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman “about this very serious issue. I would be somewhat surprised if the recommendations were not being followed through” and he would get a report from the Department of Children for Mr Pringle.

Green Party TD Patrick Costello also raised the matter and said the Government is funding a safeguarding officer because of the charity’s inability to fund it themselves and “because of the absolute necessity for such a role”.

He noted that when similar concerns emerged about Scouting Ireland then minister Katherine Zappone cut off its funding until it implemented changes. He said the Government had leverage over the charity through funding the safeguarding officer and “I think it is time we used this.”

The Tánaiste said that the department was working on the issue and said the key recommendation was the appointment of a national safeguarding officer to work with the organisation for a specified time to ensure it is fully compliant with the child protection and safeguarding regime.

In January, the charity met department officials and informed them that they needed financial support to fund the safeguarding officer and the Minister committed funding for the role.

Mr Martin told Mr Costello that “three separate progress reports or response documents were published by the organisation during 2023″, in March, July and November that year. “That is just to correct an impression that nothing was done at all in terms of the recommendations,” he said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times