Tuesday 25 October 2016

Console saga raises some hard questions

Published 08/07/2016 | 02:30

Console founder Paul Kelly Picture: Conor McCabe
Console founder Paul Kelly Picture: Conor McCabe

The decision to close down Console was inevitable. No organisation could have survived the reputational damage it has endured given such explosive allegations.

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In the short term, it is vital that its suicide prevention services are taken over as soon as possible.

The charity was due to run out of funds next week. The lessons from this disturbing story are many, but the questions the whole affair raises are as important.

How millions of State money ended up being pumped into Console - despite so many people raising issues connected with its founder, and its governance - will take some explaining. Claims of lavish holidays, expensive cars and massive credit card bills all eroded confidence, in a sector built on trust and integrity.

Trust and integrity are also vital in the handing out of taxpayers' money, and there are serious concerns in the public mind as to why so much money was handed over given the fact that doubts about Console had been raised.

Charities are also deeply dependent on the precious thread that binds them to the generous hearts of the giving public. That is why the role of the regulator is so important, and will have to be reappraised in the context of this debacle. Many will argue about the need for so many charities in Ireland, of which there are literally thousands.

The more there are, the more important oversight and compliance become. Formal investigations are obviously essential. The suicide helplines and counselling services offered by Console must be protected.

For those caught between the cracks of the State and the business sector, there is a third space, and this is where most NGOs do their exceptional work. The problem is that this space is becoming more congested, making scrutiny and accountability more of a challenge.

The case for the existence of a not-for-profit sector is not in doubt. But damaging claims can undermine it, and it is entirely reasonable to ask do we need so many charities and to insist that their remit is held under constant review.

Kenny’s leadership is now a millstone around FG’s neck

‘I have a very clear understanding of what it is that I am going to do and I will set that out in due course.” In an interview with the Irish Independent last month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had a plan for handing over the leadership of Fine Gael.

Kenny says he will lead the Government for the full term in office. In seemingly contradictory fashion, he also says he won’t lead Fine Gael into the next General Election.

The Taoiseach hasn’t revealed when he plans to stand down and how he plans to allow for a seamless transition to a successor. After a calamitous week for Kenny, with mishaps over abortion, Brexit and Cabinet responsibility, Fine Gael TDs now want to know the process – fast.

The latest Ipsos MRBI poll opinion poll in the ‘Irish Times’ reveals a massive surge in support for Fianna Fáil, leaving the party well ahead of Fine Gael.

Micheál Martin’s decision to back a minority Government from the opposition benches has paid off. Fianna Fáil’s gains have largely come from the decline of the Independents, as the novelty has worn off with the voters.

Fine Gael is continuing the backward trend established in the General Election. Kenny’s leadership has become a millstone around the party’s neck.

Out of favour with the voters and out of ideas in Government, the longer Kenny remains at the helm, the more he will drag them down.

Fine Gael needs to weigh up if it really has the time to allow Kenny determine the timing of his own departure.

Irish Independent

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