A large volume of previously undiscovered files held at the home of a former senior member of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) were released to Scouting Ireland in February this year.
The 25 boxes of files, which had been kept in the home of the former CBSI Chief Scout, Joseph Lawlor, now deceased, were reviewed by child protection expert Ian Elliott as part of his learning review for the organisation, published on Thursday 14 May.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Acts, by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, show that a member of Joseph Lawlor's family (through marriage) contacted Scouting Ireland after the broadcast of the RTÉ Investigates programme, Scouts’ Dishonour, on abuse within Scouting late last year. The programme disclosed that the former Chief Scout was the subject of a number of child sex abuse allegations, involving inappropriate touching.
The Freedom of Information documents released show how Mr Lawlor’s family member, who contacted Scouting Ireland, was not aware of the contents of the files contained in the boxes but wanted to hand them over in case they could help any potential survivor.
In a letter written to the Department of Childen and Youth Affairs on 31 January this year by the former CEO of Scouting Ireland, John Lawlor, who is no relation of the former Chief Scout, states: "The contacting person said that the family had found a significant amount of paper work in the garage of the former home of Joe Lawlor that related to scouting.
"The contacting person said they had not read any of it, but wanted it gone and hoped that something contained in the paper work may help those Joe Lawlor had hurt."
The letter also states that the Lawlor family had been "devastated" by the contents of the RTÉ Investigates programme and that "the contacting person said that they were anxious to give Scouting Ireland the documentation but it was Joe Lawlor’s authorised next of kin’s decision. She explained that Joe Lawlor’s authorised next of kin was aware of the allegations outlined in the RTÉ television programme".
The letter also highlights how it was the intention of the Lawlor family to inform the Gardai that they had contacted Scouting Ireland about the paper work.
A number of steps had to be followed in order to allow Scouting Ireland to take legal possession of the files. In a separate email, written by Ian Elliott on 3 February to Scouting Ireland and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, released under FOI, he confirms receipt of the material comprised of "approximately 20 filing boxes" which contained "a considerable volume of documentation relating to scouting activities".
It is not clear from the correspondence what, if any part of the material disclosed, relates to allegations of abuse within the CBSI. Mr Elliott’s email states that he had undertaken to review it as part of his report into historic sex abuse within Scouting over decades from the 1950s to the present. However, its relevance remains unclear.
In his email, Mr Elliott pledged to review the material prior to publishing his report and says: "I am currently engaged in sorting this to establish if it is relevant to the Learning Review that I have been commissioned to complete for Scouting Ireland, after which it will be passed to Scouting Ireland for them to archive."
Other Freedom of Information documentation released highlights how officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs were hosted for lunch in Scouting Ireland headquarters in Larch Hill on February 26th at meeting where Mr Elliott’s review of historic abuse and the verification of the Department’s funding of the organisation through its Youth Service Grant Scheme were to be discussed.