ISPCC response to the ‘incomprehensible’ St John Ambulance Child safeguarding shortcomings

The victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and grooming at St John Ambulance are to be commended for speaking out in such difficult circumstances in the pursuit of truth and justice. 

Today sees the long-awaited publication of the inquiry into such allegations at St John Ambulance. 

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, recently nominated Judge of the Circuit Court, is to be applauded for his forthrightness in laying bare the serious and hugely concerning child safeguarding issues at St John Ambulance, many remaining unrectified to this day. 

It is shocking that it is only in light of the report’s publication that St John Ambulance has said it will develop “robust internal accountability frameworks” and committed to employing a full-time safeguarding officer. 

The safety of children should always be at the heart of such organisations.

It is incredibly important that when children speak out about such heinous crimes, as they did at the time, that they are believed and that the appropriate policies and procedures are followed. Children need to see something is being done by the adults who are in place to safeguard them. This did not happen at St John Ambulance. 

John Church, ISPCC CEO said: “St John Ambulance cadets are children aged 11-18 years of age. It is incomprehensible to learn that any organisation working with and/or involving children did not have a finalised child safeguarding policy in place, a requirement by law. 

“Child sexual abuse is deemed an adverse childhood experience meaning children who are subjected to such experiences are potentially at heightened risk of other physical and mental health issues in adulthood. All victims and survivors ought to receive the necessary supports they deserve.”  

Whilst St John Ambulance has reportedly stated it undertook a due diligence process in response to the delay in the publication of this report, it is now time it undertakes the same due diligence process to address its child safeguarding obligations. This is not historic child sexual abuse, it is very much abuse that happened in the recent past, and it is difficult to see how such crimes can be prevented from happening again considering the governance issues Dr Shannon has pointed out. No organisation should ever put its reputation before the safety and protection of a child in its care. 

The ISPCC notes that St John Ambulance has followed Dr Shannon’s recommendation and offered an apology to its victims and survivors, accepting the shortcomings of the structures enabled the grooming and abuse of children. 

It is not enough to proffer an apology, action must be taken to safeguard children at all times. 


ISPCC welcomes the official establishment day of Coimisiún na Meán


ISPCC welcomes the official establishment day of Coimisiún na Meán which has been set up in accordance with the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act (OSMR).  

It is a great development to see Niamh Hodnett take on the role of Online Safety Commissioner. ISPCC has campaigned for the establishment of such an office since it was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in 2016. 

We commend Minister Catherine Martin for empowering the Online Safety Commissioner to develop binding online safety codes that hold designated online services to account for how they deal with harmful online content.

John Church, ISPCC CEO, said: “The establishment of Coimisiún na Meán and the office of Online Safety Commissioner is a crucial step in improving the safety and experience of children and young people in the ever-changing digital landscape. This is an extremely positive day for children and young people and we look forward to supporting the Coimisiún in any way we can.”

ISPCC | and acclaimed author and illustrator Katie O’Donoghue to host series of free resilience-boosting webinars

Digital sessions will equip parents and teachers of primary school children with tools to bolster resilience and provide tips to help manage anxiety 

March 14, 2023 – ISPCC and author and illustrator, Katie O’Donoghue are set to host a series of free webinars for parents and teachers that will provide them tools and tips to help bolster children’s resilience and manage anxiety.  The first in the series which is primarily for parents, will take place on March 28th, 2023.    


At ISPCC, we know what is worrying children and young people in Ireland; we know what is on their minds and we know how to support them. Through this series of bespoke webinars, parents and teachers will learn skills and strategies for children between five and 12 years of age who are feeling anxious and who would benefit from a boost in confidence to strengthen their resilience.   


ISPCC parenting leads will be joined by author, illustrator and art psychotherapist Katie O’Donoghue, whose second book The Little Otter Who Tried has recently been published by Gill Books.   


The Little Otter Who Tried is a beautifully illustrated book that aims to teach children valuable lessons about self-care, resilience and how to ask for help; vital lessons that will be covered throughout the webinar series. Participants will also gain a better understanding of resilience, as well as increased knowledge of coping skills to support children and a toolkit of resources.  


Webinar details are: 

Parents – Building Resilience 

March 28th, 7-8pm 

Parents – Managing Anxiety 

April 25th, 7-8pm 

Teaching Professionals 

May 9th, 3-3:30pm where both topics will be covered.

Participants who register will also be in with a chance to win a signed copy of The Little Otter Who Tried. 

To register, follow this link:


ISPCC response to the sentencing today of a man and woman who have been jailed over the rape and abuse of her children

“ISPCC shares the shock and distress felt by so many on hearing the horrifying details of rape and abuse carried out by a man and a woman on her young children following their sentencing at the Central Criminal Court today.  

Fiona Jennings, ISPCC, Head of Policy and Public Affairs said: “Parents and those in a parenting role are expected to protect their children and keep them safe, yet in this case it is clear from the sentences handed down that these children did not experience such protection. 

 “We join with Mr Justice David Keane in paying tribute to the young children at the centre of the case who showed such bravery in recounting the horrendous abuse they were subjected to at such a young age.” 

 ISPCC welcomes the lengthy sentences handed down to both perpetrators of this shocking abuse and strongly condemns the heinous crimes carried out against these young children. Any child who has been sexually abused must be offered and receive support in a timely manner.  

 The specialist interviewers must also be commended for their diligence in gathering such harrowing testimony to secure such a substantial sentence. However, it is not acceptable that it took eight years to get to trial and for the children to have to wait such a lengthy period to access justice.  

 ISPCC reiterates its call for the Government to commit with haste to a national strategy for child sexual abuse as recommended by the Report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, 2017. 

 It is generally accepted that the number of cases of abuse in this country are grossly under-reported and the ISPCC strongly encourages anyone who has concerns about a child to help them disclose these horrific crimes to the authorities.  

 Such crimes can be reported by contacting An Garda Síochána’s Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Phone Line, which is a dedicated phone line for the reporting of child sexual abuse, on 1800 555 222.   

Children must always be protected, and we must do everything we can to ensure that we live in a society that puts children and their needs and rights at the heart of all we do. 

Why ISPCC | needs your vote

You can help children and young people in Ireland reach out to us for any reason – with a click of your mouse!

At the ISPCC we are delighted to have been shorted-listed for the 2023  Permanent tsb Community Fund, and we need you to help us get our submission across the line. 

By going to voting for us, you can help us make a real difference to the children and young people in Ireland. 

Childline volunteers are here to support children and young people 24/7. Our support service is free, confidential and non-judgemental.  We rely heavily on public generosity so that we can be here for every child and young person all over Ireland, whenever they need us. 

Our volunteers are always here to listen, support and help guide children and young people, no matter what is going on in the lives. 

They make a real difference to the children and young people, and so can you by voting for ISPCC to become one of permanent tsb’s charity partners this year. Voting closes on Friday, March 10, at 6 pm. 

Go on, help us to help children and young people. 

• Childline’s 24-hour support line can be contacted for free, 365 days a year 24/7.  Children can chat online at or call 1800 66 66 66

• The permanent tsb Community Fund supports local communities by providing funding to community organisations that are working hard to make a difference.