Sunday 23 October 2016

It's easy to miss the detail and get carried away by the story

The Console scandal is what happens when the State outsources the tricky work, writes Brendan O'Connor

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

NEW LEADER: Console’s interim CEO David Hall checking the cars belonging to Paul Kelly and his wife Patricia yesterday. Photo: Fergal Phillips
NEW LEADER: Console’s interim CEO David Hall checking the cars belonging to Paul Kelly and his wife Patricia yesterday. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Of course, it's all obvious now. I even started remembering myself how I found something a bit off about Paul Kelly when I met him. Deeply sincere-seeming, but also seeming to be enjoying it all a bit too much, this little dapper, tanned man. He didn't seem overly charismatic, but he had a great welcome for himself, and there was something priesty about him. It is also telling that a priest and a doctor, two of the professions we used to question the least, were the two professions that Paul Kelly impersonated.

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I met him at a point where he had latched onto the family of Donal Walsh and ostensibly he seemed to be doing good work in Tralee, so you know, you try to ignore your prejudices.

And Kelly, on the face of it, was not unlike many other people who set up charities.

The good ones can be odd too. They are different from you and me. They can tend to be monomaniacal, driven by a passion and a sense of injustice and empathy that consumes them. Sometimes they seem half mad purely because they have hearts without boundaries and they can't ignore the suffering and pain of others the way the rest of us can.

And they thrive on storytelling. They tell stories to get the money. That is how they unlock those of us who aren't as sensitive to the pain of the world as they are. They tell us stories to release our tears and our purse strings. And most of the time, that is a good thing. They manipulate us to do things we wouldn't otherwise do. And the end generally justifies the means.

Read more: Console scandal: Elaborate web of deceit of an 'untouchable' charity founder 

Read more: Former Console CEO Paul Kelly and wife relinquish company cars and credit cards after 10 days of turmoil over finances

But when they are people like Paul Kelly, the stories can sometimes be a cover for details and facts that are less than savoury. But generally we put aside our better judgement and we just go with the emotional piece. We don't question these secular saints.

More importantly, the Console scandal is also yet another example of what happens when the State outsources tricky work to well-meaning, passionate people who may not be great on detail and compliance, but who can tug on the heartstrings.

We all recognise that we need to address the law on abortion in this country. And we all recognise that the people who want to address it with this law on so-called fatal foetal abnormality are no Paul Kellys, but good people with good intentions. We have heard powerful stories about these cases. Stories that would kill you, about people bringing babies home from England in boxes. Or foetuses, or whichever term they prefer to use in these circumstances, in these stories.

But the Government needs to grasp this nettle itself. We cannot outsource to a bankrupt builder the legislation that endeavours to categorise who has a right to be born and who does not.

And we cannot avoid the conversation about giving women the right to choose for much longer. To permit that vacuum to be filled by allowing enthusiastic amateurs to decide that we start vague categorising of who or what is allowed to be aborted and who and what is not, would be unwise.

There is a lot of tricky detail in that easy phrase, fatal foetal abnormality, and perhaps we need to look at that detail before we get carried away with the sad stories.

And perhaps too we need to bite the bullet and focus on the bigger question, the one that won't go away.

Sunday Independent

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