Sunday 24 September 2017

'Something about him just did not ring true' - More details of Console's Paul Kelly's past revealed

Woman claims Console's Paul Kelly got a job as a social worker in Cumbria in 1982

Great pretender: Paul Kelly impersonated a priest, a doctor and, possibly, a social worker Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Great pretender: Paul Kelly impersonated a priest, a doctor and, possibly, a social worker Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

He passed himself off as a doctor and then as a priest. Now, it appears the Walter Mitty charity boss Paul Kelly may have added another fictitious string to his bow: social worker.

An English woman has come forward to claim Paul Kelly got a job as a social worker with Cumbrian Social Services in the early 1980s but left suddenly months later after his colleagues raised concerns about his capabilities.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Angela Cummins recalled that he asked questions such as, "What are case notes?" and seemed overwhelmed by the work.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council, which oversees social services, was unable to confirm that Paul Kelly was an employee at the time of going to press.

However, Angela recalled distinctly the young man she first met in early 1982 when he came to work at the Carlisle offices of Cumbrian Social Services. He was in his mid-20s and seemed a "very nice young man", she said.

Paul Kelly told her that he had been a priest in Ireland and that he was a qualified social worker. Angela worked with him on the team.

Paul Kelly and (inset) his wife Patricia
Paul Kelly and (inset) his wife Patricia

"He worked as a qualified social worker but it was obvious very early on that he didn't know what he was doing... I remember him saying to me once: 'Angela, what are case notes?' And I remember being concerned," she said.

"It became very clear to a lot of us working there that the guy did not have any idea what social work was - especially working in a team with children and families. He could not understand social-work policy, procedure and practice," she said.

Former CEO of Console Paul Kelly Photo: Collins
Former CEO of Console Paul Kelly Photo: Collins

At first, she and her colleagues thought perhaps Ireland might have had "a different system".

"I think we soon realised, hold on a second, he is not actually getting to grips with this," she said.

Angela raised her concerns with a superior. "I did say to the principal social worker, there is something about him that is not ringing true here," she said. "He was a lovely guy but, you know, I think a lot of us were concerned about him."

After a few months, Kelly was called to a meeting with a senior social worker.

David Hall, interim CEO, was given permission by High Court to inspect and remove any documents or material relating to Console from Unit G9, Remedy Self Storage, Tougher Business Park, Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Sunday World
David Hall, interim CEO, was given permission by High Court to inspect and remove any documents or material relating to Console from Unit G9, Remedy Self Storage, Tougher Business Park, Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Sunday World

"I remember the day he came in and said, 'I've got to see the principal social worker' and he seemed worried about it," she said. "I don't know whether he was asked to leave but I never saw him again."

More than 30 years later, Angela was astonished to see the older but unmistakable face of her one-time Irish colleague beaming out of newspaper articles about a financial scandal at the suicide bereavement charity, Console.

David Hall, interim CEO, was given permission by High Court to inspect and remove any documents or material relating to Console from Unit G9, Remedy Self Storage, Tougher Business Park, Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Sunday World
David Hall, interim CEO, was given permission by High Court to inspect and remove any documents or material relating to Console from Unit G9, Remedy Self Storage, Tougher Business Park, Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Sunday World

"My friend in Ireland sent me details and sent me the photograph," she said. "I looked at his picture and said, 'Yes, it's him, 100pc.'"

She was shocked to read about Kelly's lavish spending using Console credit cards, on foreign travel and trips to Australia and New Zealand - and that he, his wife Patricia, and their son, drew almost €500,000 in salaries and cars over three years.

A secret storage unit rented by disgraced former Console chief executive Paul Kelly revealed a massive stash of chequebooks, boxes of company documents, a computer and sets of keys when it was opened under court order yesterday. Photo: Collins
A secret storage unit rented by disgraced former Console chief executive Paul Kelly revealed a massive stash of chequebooks, boxes of company documents, a computer and sets of keys when it was opened under court order yesterday. Photo: Collins

And only then she did learn about his history of deception.

By late 1982, Paul Kelly was back in Dublin working as a porter in St James Hospital. A caller to Joe Duffy's Liveline radio show - a retired chief medical scientist - recalled that when Kelly's porter's contract finished in late 1982, he was taken on as a lab aide for three months.

One day, he didn't turn up for work and his sister later came to pick up his belongings. In fact, he had moved on to the Royal Dublin Hospital in Baggot Street, where, for several months, he successfully passed himself off as a doctor. He was found out and was prosecuted for personation in 1983. He got the Probation Act.

He went on to work briefly in Aer Lingus - his contemporary from Ballyfermot, Tommy Morris, said he met Kelly on Grafton Street in a pilot's uniform - and in the US embassy.

In the late 1980s, he founded a counselling charity called Christian Development Services, called himself Fr Paul Kelly and took in thousands in fundraising. His activities were questioned in an RTE documentary, and the charity was eventually shut down, owing money to the Revenue.

Kelly was believed to have moved to Australia. Back in Ireland in 2002, he set up the suicide bereavement charity Console, in memory of his sister. He went on to collect accolades such as the People of the Year awards, without ever having his past raked up.

Until now, Angela has added her contribution to the jigsaw of Paul Kelly's life because, "It is important to put all the pieces together," she said. "He did have that time in Cumbria , even though he was only here for a few months."

What has shocked her most was "how he was allowed to get away with it"?

"I think he is somebody that needs a lot of psychological help. I thought that in the 1980s and it's now 2016. I just don't get it. I just don't get how this guy has been allowed to continue. To go after him is not the only issue. There is a whole caucus of organisations, of funders, of people, that allowed this man to get away with what he has done," she said. Ultimately, she believed Kelly must bear responsibility.

"It is a dreadful situation and I am terribly sorry for everybody," she said. "Paul Kelly and his family are to blame for this appalling situation. He, and they, must face the consequences of such overwhelming deception and lies."

Sunday Independent

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