independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Fundraisers and families suffer in wake of CRC scandal

Barry Kavanagh with his son John (19), who attends the CRC.
Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Barry Kavanagh with his son John (19), who attends the CRC. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

AN enraged fundraiser for the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) has said he is prepared to lodge a formal criminal complaint to gardai in the wake of damning revelations that donations were used to top up former CEO Paul Kiely's €742,000 pension pot.

Business consultant Barry Kavanagh and his wife Helen, both 56, have been enthusiastic fundraisers for the CRC, which provides therapy for their son John, 19, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

The couple from Rush, north Co Dublin, raised more than €30,000 through various events over the years, including charity walks, lunches and an annual fundraiser specifically for the charity through their local musical society.

Mr Kavanagh vowed to continue to fundraise for the charity, which he believes has unfairly suffered the publicity backlash from the actions of its board of directors.

But he said he would like to see those responsible for signing off on the outrageous €742,000 pension pot to Mr Kiely and top-ups to CRC employees from the charity's fundraising wing, The Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic, (FSCRC) brought to account.

"I'll make a criminal complaint if that what it takes," Mr Kavanagh told the Sunday Independent.

"I have to be honest, with all of financial scandals -- and they're all despicable -- they've put their hand in the collection buckets to line the pockets of one of their own.

"Criminal charges should be taken."

Mr Kavanagh said he would await the PAC's investigation before making an official complaint to gardai.

But in the meantime, he demanded that money from donations used to top-up any salaries or pensions of CRC executives to be returned to the charity, which he said has done an excellent job in providing therapy for his son since he was six weeks old.

"The reality is, we raised the money in good faith and in the future I will fundraise for the CRC, but I won't say it will be easy.

"But we also want the money returned to the CRC."

Fellow parent Sarah Fitzgibbon, 42, who is a member of the CRC Parents Association in Clondalkin, west Dublin, also vowed to continue fundraising for the charity even though the actions of the board was "tarnishing people like me."

Her daughter Poppy, 7, also suffers from cerebral palsy and attends the clinic.

The drama teacher has also staged charity comedy nights for the CRC's fundraising department, which is a separate entity from the Friends and Supporters of the CRC.

But like all parents of children attending the CRC and people who raised funds and donated to the charity, she is livid over the scandal and is worried that it will be the staff and clients of the clinic who suffer the most fallout.

"To find out that that Christian desire to help was being subverted by those who had their noses in the trough while using our children to raise funds is despicable," she said.

Meanwhile, the total amount of funds raised for the CRC through donations to its fundraising arm last year remains a closely-guarded secret.

During explosive hearings at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, it was disclosed that former director Paul Kiely's €742,00 exit package, which was labelled a donation in the company's accounts, amounted to half of the money raised by Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic (FSCRC) last year.

Requests for financial statements of the 2013 funds raised by FSCRC were flatly turned down by officials at the under-fire clinic in Clontarf, north Dublin, who referred all media queries to the HSE press office.

However, the HSE is also refusing to divulge any details concerning the embattled rehabilitation facility for the disabled, while HSE interim director John Cregan -- who revealed Mr Kiely's gold-plated exit package -- conducts an audit of the facility.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Care Trust, which also raises funds that are turned over to the FSCRC, said it raised approximately €1.5m for the charity last year through an annual lottery.

However, Fundraising Ireland CEO Anne Hannify said because the charities sector remained unregulated in Ireland, there was nothing to legally compel any charity to publicly disclose how much money it raises and how the money is spent.

But she expects the drop-off in donations to the FSCRC as a result of the CRC scandal would be be "cataclysmic".

"It's having a massive impact. But the people who will suffer are the people who are the most vulnerable," she told the Sunday Independent.

Irish Independent

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