Letter to the Editor of The Irish Times, 16th August 2004.
Kevin Myers never ceases to amaze. Despite his usual efforts to honour those who sought to uphold and defend the former British Empire, he managed, in his review of “Scouting for Boys” (Weekender July 31st) to attack the one former Imperial Soldier. Robert Baden Powell, who actually did leave a positive legacy behind him. In the process he managed also to express an outdated, if ever accurate, impression of the largest voluntary Youth Movement in the World.
In the course of his lengthy review, Mr Myers, could but did not, mention the young Polish Scouts, who in 1944, took leadership roles in the Warsaw Rising against Nazism. Nor did he mention the fact that Scouting in South Africa, throughout the Apartheid years, simply refused to implement the policies of that fascist regime.
Contrary to Mr Myers, Na Fianna Eireann, is not and never has been, a recognised Scouting body. Scouting is a democratic movement, providing ongoing, voluntary, educational and life enhancing experiences for young people. Scouting is perhaps the ultimate expression of a democratic Youth Organisation. Na Fianna Eireann hardly meets that criteria.
Here in Ireland, arising from the Good Friday Agreement, Scouting played its role through the creation of the new 32 County, 40,000 strong, Scouting Ireland, from the former Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland and the Scout Association of Ireland.
As Lord Mayor of Dublin I had the honour to formally open one of the key meetings that led to the creation of the new body. Let me repeat here the words I used then.
“Long before it became fashionable, internationalism and respect for diverse cultures were tenets of Scouting. Long before the growth of the green movement, respect for nature and our environment were core principles of Scouting. Long before the development of modern education norms, the encouragement of young people to ‘learn by doing’ was Scouting practice and long before notions of democracy were even contemplated in many societies the very essence of Scouting was of young people deciding for themselves, their programmes, their activities and their future”.
I am proud to have had the opportunity and privilege to be a member of one of the most progressive and inclusive youth movements our world has ever seen. I am proud too of the thirty eight young Venture Scouts, from my own local Scout Group in Donnybrook, who this Summer raised the funds to renovate a home for young deprived people in Peru and then went out there to carry out the work themselves. They and the Movement they represent deserve more than the disdain and disregard so easily dished out by the voluble Mr Myers, who seems to have an opinion on very much, but knowledge of very little.
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