Is Tusla’s failure to deal adequately with allegations of child sex abuse in St. John’s Ambulance symptomatic of systemic failure to tackle paedophelia?

A report published today by  report from Dr Shannon following his independent investigation into St John Ambulance Service says there was a “significant degree of organisational awareness” of the dangers posed by a former senior officer in the 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 says there was “failures at a systemic level” when it came to child protection, with the organisation’s structures facilitating “grooming and predatory behaviour”.

Internal correspondence, seen by The Irish Times, shows Tusla previously gave St John Ambulance a clean bill of health, when concerns about past abuse were raised by a TD.

As Fianna Fáil Opposition spokeswoman for children, Minister of State Anne Rabbitte had privately written to then minister for children Katherine Zappone in 2019, after meeting three men abused by the former senior figure in St John Ambulance.

In a 5th December 2019 response, Bernard Gloster, then-Tusla chief executive, assured Ms Rabbitte past alleged abuse had not been widespread.

Tusla had previously conducted an investigation into disclosures from two of the survivors, and deemed their child sex abuse allegations made against the former senior figure to be “founded”.

Mr Gloster said a senior social worker had reviewed records in the Dublin Mid-Leinster region and had not found any further reports of past alleged abuse in the organisation.

“Therefore all available information suggests that there is no evidence of systemic or organisational abuse within St John Ambulance,” he wrote.

Gloster said he had been advised “that there are no current concerns” with standards in the organisation. He also stated that Tusla officials had reviewed its child safeguarding statement and deemed St John Ambulance to be compliant.

Dr Shannon’s report published today concludes that St John Ambulance still does not have a finalised child protection policy. This contradicts the assurances given by Bernard Gloster in 2019.