Secretary becomes Secretariat


The National Management Committee of Scouting Ireland recently signaled a decision to introduce three new positions at senior level in the association, designed to alleviate pressure on a role occupied by an elected volunteer.

This is a positive step.


The ‘Assistant National Secretary’ roles will each focus on one of three significant areas of the National Secretaries very extensive brief. Each role will be an appointment (by the NMC), presumably with some element of endorsement to come later from National Council at which point these roles may gain more of a statutory footing, following rules changes, etc.

The NMC is to be applauded for taking a prompt decision in this area and for moving swiftly to implement it. The tenet of ‘volunteer led’ is a critically important one for Scouting in Ireland and this decision should help to make a large chunk of work easier to manage and ultimately drive better implementation too.

These roles will tackle large, frequently invisible (and often thankless) tasks that many members of Scouting do not see, but which add up to a series of essential services for the association. Those willing to undertake this work to the required standard will not be easy to find.


The calibre of the individuals appointed will be of pivotal importance, not just in terms of their competence, but also in terms of their integrity/perceived integrity and their overall suitability for the job.

In this context, theirishscouter hopes that due attention will be given to any potential conflicts of interest that prospective candidates might have, that could influence (or be perceived to influence) their thinking or actions on a given topic.

The association, having emerged from a lengthy period during which nepotism or the strong perception of it cropped up rather too often and many decisions were made in what might diplomatically be described as a somewhat ‘opaque’ environment, needs to ensure that the breath of fresh air ushered in with the 2015 elections, remains fresh.

In particular, prospective candidates for any of these ‘Assistant National Secretary’ roles and indeed for the top job itself when the election comes around should declare membership of a fellowship patrol, if they are or have recently been a member of one.

Scout group loyalties and those of County and indeed Province are plain for all to see. They usually turn up on the Scouting CV of election hopefuls in any event. Corporate related conflicts of interest are equally easy to spot and in any case rarely manifest themselves in a Scouting context. However membership of a fellowship patrol is invisible to the casual voter. Yet depending on the patrol, it can signal interest in a particular policy area or convey a particular world view that those casting a vote should know about, lest lack of knowledge result in a different voting decision being made.


Membership of a fellowship patrol should not preclude anyone from running for office (or applying for a paid job in Scouting Ireland for that matter). But the candidate, in the interests of transparency, should declare it.

It may necessitate a successful candidate absenting him or herself from a particular vote or conversation. It may prompt an office holder to withdraw from an interviewing panel or avoid officiating in a specific dispute. It may involve none of these things in some instances; if the NMC in their capacity as Board of Directors takes a view that a declared conflict of interest poses no issue and this is recorded into the minutes of the board meeting.

One would like to think that every member would have the wherewithal to know themselves when facing a conflict of interest and would have the integrity to withdraw accordingly from a decision or discussion, but recent years of observing how Scouting works at National level strongly suggests this could not be a relied upon course of action every time.

A formal request for a declaration of any potential conflicts of interest should be an integral part of all elections and appointments to National Scouting roles and indeed to all contracts of employment. These new Assistant National Secretary roles are a good place to start.

This article will of course prompt howls of protest and more anonymous poison pen emails from the usual source, but these new roles are sensitive, as are many key National roles, so transparency is critical and is in the interests of the association, the membership AND the candidate(s).

One role will be responsible for governance. Another will be dealing with disputes. The candidates undertaking these roles need to be not only completely and utterly impartial, they need to be seen as such. Otherwise, the NMC’s initiative in creating this framework will be fatally undermined and with it the prospect of an elegant solution to the challenge of having a National Secretary role that is just too large for one person to undertake alone.


Scouting is full of talented, highly capable people. Yes it is fair to surmise that many truly capable people run a mile from taking on vast, invisible and thankless roles, preferring instead to channel their spare time into local scouting pursuits. However, the association must strive to resist the temptation to appoint other people who are unable to undertake a role because they either lack the competence, the credibility or the capability, simply because there happens to be a vacancy and they are willing to fill it.

Far better to create the role and leave it vacant until the right candidate comes along. Great strides have been made in the past year to reposition how the association is managed at National level. It will take time for this narrative to translate into an all-pervading reality. But staying the course and insisting on a better class of leader will pay off.

Whoever comes forward for these vacancies deserves credit for putting their name into the hat. The role of the leadership will be to have the wisdom, the strength of purpose and the tact, to choose very carefully and equally not shy away from a difficult conversation with an unsuitable candidate, if such conversations need to be had.



16 thoughts on “Secretary becomes Secretariat”

  1. Mother of God Garrett will you ever get over your fixation with Fellowship Patrols. I have never been a member of any and as a narky young person was elected to many positions in both the old and the new associations. Now as a narky older person I have undertaken or been asked or been elected to do other jobs. As Grouch said sure I wouldn’t want to be in any Fellowship Patrol that would have me….or something like that. Your other points were well made – pity you spoiled it with your fixation. Old battles are over Garrett – scouting Ireland is moving on.

  2. Hi Dermot. Always a pleasure to hear from you. I have no idea what ‘battles’ you are engaged in, but I hope you are getting paid for all this PR work.

    Transparency in decision-making is important and if a member is in a club where the policy – stated or otherwise – can be at variance with that of the association, then membership of said club simply needs to be declared.

    SOCIETY is moving on Dermot. Transparency is being demanded of charities and Scouting needs to embrace this good practice, including when it comes to election or selection of key personnel.

      1. Milly and Garrett I think I am around long enough to understand our Association and the two legacy associations work. I am also around long enough to see old rows and battles being resurrected. Let them go lads and let’s continue to build SI.

  3. Fellowship Patrols – Easiest Solution – Publish a list of Current & Recent (10yrs) Members !!!
    Dermot – Complete Transparency – is the simplest and only way to dispel any concerns (real or imagined).
    MOST people do not fully understand UNCONSCIOUS BIAS in interviewing – Even greater in a small community.
    On a completely different issue – Was SI actions related to enquiring into the email relevant to the non election of a chief scout ever made public?

  4. Dermot, I first noticed the dynamic I was referring to shortly after Scouting Ireland came into being and it seemed to me to be at play right up to the last elections. So I am not referring to any distant memories.
    Good point Alan, I believe that all fellowship patrols should be required to list their full membership and that this should be available to anyone with appropriate access to the Database.
    For me the question for me though is not ‘What are “They” doing?’ but rather ‘What are “We” doing?’, I reckon each Group Council and County Board (supported / encouraged by PMST) should be asking themselves “Who is the best person we know for this job?” and then approaching them to encourage them to allow their name to be put forward.

  5. Of course we should appoint people on merit. We should only criticise people when they deserve it. While I am not in one I just the Fellowship patrols as a continuous of the old Scout Patrol into an adult fraternity.

  6. Ok folks, here we go again, challenging the nonsense related to fellowship patrols and lets be honest, membership of the Buffalo patrol.
    Milly, grow up, mention who you mean to attack, the buffaloes. What is your problem? Just speak out loud.
    All members of the Buffalo patrol are entitled to stand for any position in the association and yes they should be appointed on merit. I respect the arrangements for selection as do all members of the patrol of which I am a member.
    Garrett, I can only echo the words of Dermot. In another forum I listed the members of the Buffalo patrol. They are too numerous for me to mention here but we are having our annual Christmas dinner on Sat 3rd December in Dungarvan. You and Milly are hereby invited to attend. You and Milly can explain to those assembled the difficulty you have with not being a member of this august body that so exercises your every waking moment.

    In short, grow up.

      1. 1) Who wants a SI where we are AFRAID to ask any question openly ?
        2) Who wants a SI where we are AFRAID to constructively criticise SI?
        3) Who wants a SI that we are AFRAID to campaign for change?
        ‘……I will not engage in social media or OTHER CAMPAIGNS designed to criticise members, policies or procedures of Scouting Ireland…..’

    1. Re Perceived Favoritism to Fellowship Patrols in SI.
      Do YOU understand how CONSCIOUS & UNCONSCIOUS BIAS work in interviewing / selecting someone for a job/position ?
      +++ There is one way to clarify this FACTS & STATISTICS +++..
      When this was openly asked for in SI in the past, the person was openly vilified.
      I, Alan Delahunty, am now openly asking SI to use – Openness, Transparency, Facts & STATISTICS to clarify it there is something here that SI should be concerned about of NOT.
      We are fortunate that we have a very competent professional staff member working in SI’s Research Unit.
      (1) NMC set up a SMALL committee of VOLUNTEER Scouters ( some at Senior and other at ‘on the ground’ level) , all with something to offer , eg a knowledge of research, discrimination, selection procedures etc.
      (2) this committee putes a proposal to NMC.

      Please offer CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM to this Suggestion


      1. I have to sort of nonsense peddled on other bodies and frankly disagreed with it there and here. Type of sociology nonsense beloved by some ….not by me.

  7. Hi Dermot
    I think I’ve only met you once (maybe more?) for 5 mins.
    But I’ve heard lots about you.
    In Scouting – a long term Scouter, vocal at making positive changes, not afraid to point out faults and perceived injustices. 100% genuine and honourable. wants the best for SI now and concerned about the future of SI.
    Outside Scouting – a proven long term history or campaigning/fighting injustices in Irish society. An educated, intelligent competent person. Understands how politics work in (Politics & Community Organisation).
    But Human.
    I am wise enough Not to enter into a serious debate about Personally Held OPINIONS with some who is brighter than me.
    – But FACTS, Science , Statistics (scientific ones) are a completely different matter.
    I have worked for over 20yrs as a senior psychologist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), Years in ‘coalface’ Community Development in Ballymun & Dublin inner city. Despite severe dyslexia have MA in Psychology & Sociology. I am a registered Psychologist and Systemic (Family) therapist. I have published Research.
    Dermot let’s discuss Conscious and unconscious discrimination in FACTS.
    Please read below about how NUIG discriminates against women. Then if possible, please give me, NOT your OPINION – But answer – Do the FACTS support _
    NUIG does not discriminate against women? NUIG does discrimination? Facts & STATISTICS Cant answer this question.

    Yours In Scouting

  8. Sorry Dermot english wrong near end (How do I EDIT a Post?)

    Do the FACTS support _
    1) NUIG does not Discriminate against Women?
    2) NUIG does Discriminate against against Women ?
    3) These Facts & STATISTICS Can’t tell us if NUIG Discriminates against Women or not ?


  9. (Dermot – still not found how to edit posts)~
    ++++ Perhaps the most significant frailty to the respondent’s rebuttal is the statistical evidence. Men are in the minority in the College Lecturer grade (40%) but, significantly, that statistic is almost inverted when it comes to the next promotional grade – 61% of Senior Lecturers are men. The attached table shows the internal promotions to Senior Lecturer from 2001 to 2009: ++++++
    –Worryingly, one candidate (male) promoted was not even eligible for the competition.

    The complainant is correct that three successful male candidates (Candidates 4, 6 & 7) had significantly less than the minimum requirement of contact hours (as opposed to postgraduate supervision) with students and yet got a higher score than her under the Teaching and Examining heading.
    — The respondent put huge emphasis on the high standard of applicants. Nevertheless only one candidate did not possess a PhD (which I would have thought was de rigeur for a Senior Lecturer in a leading University in the 21st century) and he came first.
    — While none of these findings would be determinative on their own, cumulatively I am satisfied that the complainant has established a prima facie case of discrimination

  10. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the nice comments. We did meet at National Council in the RDS. To put record straight I am not highly educated (not in the academic sense anyway) I just about have a bare Leaving Cert – disliked school generally and would be quite critical of our education system. I never went to University and have no Third Level Qualifications. I am however now on the Governing Body of UCD and watch “academics” with interest ….but no longer awe. I have respect for some but would not want to quantify the %.

    I did follow the NUIG issue from a distance and make no comment at all – either supportive or critical.

    We are talking about Scouting Ireland. People who know me longer will know that I have long supported the coming together ( sometimes in a tiny minority like a National Council vote of 6 – about 500) of the two Irish Scout traditions. I have also in the past been critical of how SI operated in its early years. Huge mistakes were made in its Constitution and initial Management Committee. However ………………..and it is a big however. I believe over the last five/six/seven years SI has made real strides to be inclusive and involve members. I do not share the fixation with ANY Fellowship Patrol ( I am not in one myself – never invited to btw) However I see progress and I think we should stop fighting old battles.


    Ps I have no problem in principle with your small group idea – except I believe they could probably be doing more useful things.

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