Wednesday 25 January 2017

Disgraced charity boss refuses to return award

Published 13/11/2016 | 02:30

Scandal: Former Console charity chief Paul Kelly Photo: Kinlan Photography
Scandal: Former Console charity chief Paul Kelly Photo: Kinlan Photography

The disgraced former boss of the suicide charity, Console, has refused to give back a People of the Year award.

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Paul Kelly was bestowed with the award in 2014 for his work in suicide prevention but organisers asked for it back after the massive misspending scandal that resulted in the liquidation of the charity in July.

The People of the Year organisers wrote to Kelly in July asking him to return his award voluntarily but have yet to get a reply.

A statement this weekend said: "In July this year, the People of the Year Awards wrote to Mr Paul Kelly formally asking him to return his award voluntarily. As a previous recipient, Mr Kelly is aware of the importance and significance of the awards to the Irish people and of the importance of upholding their integrity. The People of the Year Awards have unfortunately received no response from Mr Kelly at this stage."

It is understood that People of the Year is considering its next move in seeking the return of the award.

Kelly was asked to return his award, because "stories circulating in the media" had "the potential to impact on the standing of the awards".

It added that it was no reflection on the work of Console, its volunteers or its fundraisers who have helped many thousands of people bereaved by suicide over many years. Paul Kelly received the prestigious gong at a glittering ceremony in Dublin, in December, 2014, at a time when he was secretly racking up massive personal spending of his charity's funds.

He shared the stage with luminaries such as Rory O'Neill, the equality campaigner and the Garda whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, and joining an impressive list of winners that include the boxer Katie Taylor, comedian Brendan O'Carroll, Brian O'Driscoll and Rory McIlroy.

In June this year, the scandal of Kelly's lavish spending of the charity's cash prompted public outrage, forced his resignation and resulted in several investigations.

Kelly has emerged from the scandal as a Walter Mitty character with a "history of deception" who at various times has posed as a priest, a doctor and a social worker.

He went on to found the suicide bereavement charity, Console. The details of his spending of charitable funds were uncovered in an internal audit by the Health Service Executive.

The audit revealed that Kelly, his wife and his son cost the charity almost €1m over three years.

Around €500,000 was spent on foreign trips, designer clothes, eating out and other expenses between 2012 and 2014. Kelly, and his wife Patricia, who was a director of Console, drove top-of-the-range company cars, an Audi and a Mercedes, which cost the charity more than €87,000.

They were later forced to relinquish the cars to David Hall, who took over the embattled charity as interim director.

Console was placed into liquidation and its staff and services were transferred to Pieta House.

One of the more bizarre twists in the Console scandal was the theft of Kelly's daughter's showjumping horse from its stables in Longford.

The Kellys bought the horse for their daughter for €40,000. The horse was stolen, after the misspending scandal broke, by men posing as gardai recovering the charity's assets.

A Dublin man with suspected links to serious crime was arrested in August in connection with the theft. Gardai are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The next People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab, will take place in Dublin next month.

Sunday Independent

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