The arrest of a pensioner in connection with allegations of historic sex abuse within Ireland’s scouting movement has been described as “a significant development” in a long-running investigation.
The man, who is aged in his 70s, was arrested at an address in Cork and brought to Togher garda station for questioning over abuse allegations levelled by more than 20 men.
He was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 and can be questioned for up to 24 hours.
The man was questioned about abuse allegations dating back over 30 years.
He previously held a number of senior and regional positions within first the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland (CBSI) and then Scouting Ireland.
His arrest followed detailed complaints from a number of men, now aged from 25 to 46 years, about sexual abuse they allegedly suffered both at scout training exercises and on scout camps.
At least one man is understood to have also made a complaint about the scout leader’s behaviour known to officials within Ireland’s scouting movement.
All alleged they were abused when alone with the man on scouting activities.
A number of these complaints formed the background to a showdown two years ago between the scouting movement and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.
Ms Zappone suspended all Government funding to the scouting movement after she expressed concern over the handling of a separate and unrelated complaint by a female scout leader that she had allegedly been raped while on a scouting trip in 2009.
Funding was subsequently restored to Scouting Ireland by the Government but the child protection agency, Tusla, last year suggested that the scouting movement consider suspending all overnight trips involving juvenile members.
In respect of the Cork allegations, the businessman involved has vehemently denied all the claims.
Several complainants said he supplied them with alcohol on camps. Others alleged the abuse occurred after he showed them lewd images.
Officers from the Garda Protective Services Unit (GPSU) in Cork conducted a number of related search operations.
These included searches of a number of properties in both Cork and Kerry.
Garda experts will now conduct a detailed examination of a number of items seized from the properties ranging from documentation to electronic devices, computers and phones.
A Garda spokesperson said that the force will liaise closely with Tusla over the matters involved.
“Each and every complaint made to An Garda Síochána will be investigated with professionalism and compassion,” a spokesperson said.
“An Garda Síochána is appealing to any victim(s) who have not yet come forward to make a complaint at their local Garda station or via the confidential historical abuse phone line at (1800) 555222.”
The allegations involved date back to the 1980s and involved a scout unit based in Munster.