Tuesday 21 February 2017

Varadkar held meeting with Paul Kelly in 2014

Barry Duggan

Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30

Former Console chief Paul Kelly Photo: Conor McCabe
Former Console chief Paul Kelly Photo: Conor McCabe

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar held a meeting with the disgraced former charity boss Paul Kelly in 2014 but insists that he was "not aware" at that time of allegations of fraud.

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Mr Varadkar confirmed to the Irish Independent that the meeting, which took place when he was Health Minister, was organised at Kelly's request.

The former CEO of Console wanted to discuss his plans to open a counselling service in Blanchardstown.

The meeting took place on October 13, 2014 in Mr Varadkar's constituency office.

Yesterday, the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee heard that concerns were first raised by the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) in late 2014.

Several months later, the HSE began an audit of Console, which was finally wound down this week after being dogged by controversy.

Mr Varadkar insists that he had no knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing at the time of the meeting.

Nor did he have any role in approving funding for mental-health charities or service providers.

"I was not aware of allegations against Mr Kelly of fraud or malfeasance and I did not receive any formal briefing about it from the Department of Health or the HSE," Mr Varadkar said.

However, he added: "I was aware that the HSE was carrying out an audit."

The charity closed this week, with debts of almost €300,000.

Its functions are being transferred to Pieta House. The move brings to an end weeks of confusion surrounding the future of Console, its staff and clients.

Already this week, former Health Minister James Reilly has had to defend his handling of allegations in relation to Kelly as far back as 2011.

It emerged that a former Fine Gael parliamentary assistant, Tommy Morris, had approached Dr Reilly with concerns about Kelly.

He said that Kelly had masqueraded as a doctor in a hospital during the 1980s.

Mr Morris has claimed that the scandal at Console could have been "halted" if there had been proper intervention.

But Dr Reilly has insisted that he took all appropriate action by referring Mr Morris to a principal officer in the Department of Health, who in turn interviewed Mr Kelly.

Read more: HSE only started to become concerned about Console after it increased its funding in 2013 - HSE chief

Read more: 'Why did everyone sit on their backsides after Prime Time?' - Former interim CEO of Console David Hall criticises reaction to charity controversy

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