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Ennis Scouts Group Leader Nicky Moloney making a special presentation to Fiona Staunton for her dedication to the scouting movement. The official opening of the new Ennis Scout Hall marked a milestone achievement for Fiona who joined Ennis Scouts as a leader in 1980. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Fiona’s passion a driving force behind Ennis Scout Troop

FIONA Staunton has given her heart and soul to scouting in Ireland and this week she reflected on the life changing effect it has had on her.

On the day when scouts past and present gathered to celebrate the opening of the new scout hall in Ennis, some of the biggest cheers and warmest tributes greeted Fiona as she accepted a special award for a lifetime of service.

“I’m humbled and I’m emotional. It’s nice to get an acknowledgment from your friends and your peers and people who mean a lot to me. We’ve put an awful lot of work and effort into this, particularly over the past two years”, Fiona told The Clare Champion.

Now chairperson of Ennis Scouts, Fiona’s links with the organisation go back to a time when women were not allowed to be involved.

But her love of the great outdoors and the support of fellow scouts would see Fiona go onto become the first female scout leader in Munster.

Fiona said, “My brothers were in cubs and at that time girls couldn’t be in scouts. That was in 1979/80. I joined with Christy Shannon in 1980. We went on our first training courses together.

“Bernie Dilger was the scout leader at the time and he knew I loved the outdoors, particularly the water sports. He said to come down as a junior leader. There was no such thing as a junior leader at the time. I was only two or three years older than a lot of the lads in scouts at the time.

“At that time, women could be cubs leaders and I was the first female scout leader in Munster. I always wanted to be involved in scouts. I loved the adventure.”

Scouting has given Fiona cherished memories and moments and changed her life.

She said, “I’ve been a cub leader, a venturer leader, scout leader. I met my husband, John, in scouts. So my four children wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for scouts! They were here today so that was lovely.

“I’ve learned so much from scouting. You talk about learning to climb mountains, but you have to plan to climb that mountain and know how to get off it and you have to work with other people. You climb mountains in life too.”

Fiona continued, “I loved things like waking up in the morning on the top of a mountain and seeing the sun rise and being there at that time. We were doing mindfulness before mindfulness became fashionable!

“I loved days when we went on hikes. One of my favourite things was bringing kids out on a night hike. You’d have an awful lot of children who would never have been outdoors at nighttime.

“And to be out in a forest with no lights and to listen to the sounds and not have the distractions of phones and to be with other people and depending on other people, is very special. I would say say to parents of any kids thinking about getting involved that you get much more than you give.”

Fiona has served in a number of roles including county commissioner and is a member of Scouts Ireland national training team. Her passion for scouting and the positive impact it can have on young people remains as strong as ever.

Fiona said, “Scouting has given people strength and resilience to do things and learn life skills. Especially for children who maybe are not involved in sports at a high level. We play to these children’s strengths. We look at what they are interested in.

“That’s what I love about scouts. It’s always child-led. If you look at a lot of people here today – local representatives, the emergency services, civil defence, fire services, ambulance services – those people have all passed through scouts.”

She continued, “Scouts has given me friendship and a lot of life skills. I train people in my job as well and I see our value in the community. I remember when Bernie Dilger was our scout leader and Bernie always talked about making the best of what you had and leaving things better than you found them and I’ve always lived by that.”

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