Last month (November 2023) marked one year since the submission of Judge Geoffery Shannon’s report in respect of St John Ambulance Ireland (SJAI). The review followed significant advocacy and campaigning by a group of victims and survivors who suffered abuse as children and young people in the context of their membership of that organisation.
IASW Statement on failure to implement key recommendation of the ‘Final Report of St John Ambulance Ireland Independent Review’: One year on
Judge Shannon’s report attracted significant media attention at the time of its publication and members of the IASW, among others, were shocked by its revelations and condemn the inactions and failures highlighted within the report.
Judge Shannon found that: “SJAI’s structure and culture left the organisation vulnerable to grooming and sexual abuse of children within the organisational context.” It further found that “SJAI’s accountability systems failed to intervene or investigate suspicions or knowledge of child protection risks despite potential risks being highly visible.” Significantly, the review found that SJAI seriously failed in its “ethical duty of care to its membership.”
One of the key recommendations of the Shannon Review is that SJAI should appoint a national safeguarding officer “independent of SJAI”. We particularly note, and support, the statements issued in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth (September 20th 2023) by Minister Roderic O’Gorman TD, where he stated that “until [the national safeguarding officer] is fully operational, in position and undertaking that role, that is when I will be fully satisfied in terms of the absolute safety of every child within [SJAI]”. The IASW notes with concern that one year on since the report, the appointment of such an independent safeguarding lead, has yet to be realised in a context where such grave failures were highlighted.
Last month coincidentally also marked World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse (November 19th) and World Children’s Day (November 20th). The social work profession plays a significant public service role in ensuring that children receive adequate care and protection, however the IASW is strongly of the view that child protection is also everybody’s business. For too long, victims and survivors of childhood abuse in Ireland have had to fight to be heard, to be seen, and to achieve change. Social work as a profession holds, as one of its core principles, a respect for the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. Victims and survivors should not be placed in a position where they have to continue to fight for change, so long after they initially come forward, and after the need for change is acknowledged.
The IASW welcomes the Minister’s announcement that a review of organised, organisational, and institutional abuse is to be commissioned and support calls for the continued emphasis on the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults within our communities, across organisations, and through national policy, legal and other developments.
Chair of IASW
IASW Spokesperson: Vivian Geiran via office on 086 0241055