Thursday 29 September 2016

Console scandal creates fresh difficulties for charities

Published 07/07/2016 | 02:30

Console founder Paul Kelly Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Console founder Paul Kelly Photo: Robbie Reynolds

I am a director and honorary treasurer of a number of charities. I give of my time freely and without compensation. I am glad to do so and feel honoured to have the opportunity to be of assistance.

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But I am also a hostage to fortune. I rely entirely on the salaried staff to provide me with accurate information so the board can make wise decisions.

One of the fall-outs of the scandals in the Central Rehabilitation Clinic, and now in Console, is that charitable donations have declined precipitously. Another less publicised consequence is that it is increasingly difficult to find anyone with suitable skills to volunteer to serve on the board of charities.

I have offered my resignation on several occasions because I feel it is time to give others the opportunity to serve, and yet there are never any replacements available. The responsibilities of directors are increasingly onerous under both company law and the Charities Act. Few people feel they have the time or expertise to take them on.

Others may feel discouraged by the prospect of finding themselves at the centre of a scandal should some irregularities be discovered in the running of their organisation.

Not many people have the skills of a forensic accountant to uncover those irregularities by themselves.

As a result, the voluntary and community sector in Ireland is in freefall. Those charities which have not closed have generally downsized substantially in recent years.

It would be a pity if our rich tradition of voluntary work were to die out substantially because of the scandals at a few major charities. I urge people not tar all charities with the same brush.

Frank Schnittger, Blessington, Co Wicklow

Electorate misinformed

I agree with James Gleeson (Letters, Wednesday) that the British commentariat's 'lack of guidance' in the Brexit referendum left a misinformed electorate and a damaged EU.

Given that much of the media coverage of serious issues over many years in this small republic involved little guidance on what was really happening, why should we be surprised?

The subject of water charges was never out of the media during the austerity years, while the fact that the country was in danger of going broke was never mentioned during the boom years.

The real truth is the lack of capacity of our media, especially its internet contributors, to deal responsibly with important issues is leading to a very misinformed electorate.

The lack of capacity of the media to deal with the issues has even worsened in recent times, with the internet having become a much more important part of the democratic discourse.

We saw what the result of continuous anti-EU media coverage has done in the UK - downright lies were unchallenged in their media for years.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

For the love of bread

Your article "Forget butter, it's the bread that's making you fatter" (Irish Independent, June 30) highlights the benefits of butter consumption, and states that according to a study, there is no direct link between butter consumption and cardiovascular diseases. However, what is absolutely inadmissible is to say that bread is responsible for obesity!

Experts and doctors agree that bread is indeed an important food. In France for example, they keep reminding people of the health benefits of bread, which is a prime source of 'slow sugars', which are essential to feel full between meals and limit the craving for snacks, which allows to fight obesity.

Across the world, thousands of artisan bakers work every day to make sure that they use the most natural flours, that the dough is as low in salt as possible, that bread is made following traditional processes, without additives, without preservatives, without added sugar, with a long fermentation and a lot of love.

In other words, good bread is healthy for a daily consumption.

So please do not lump all breads together, just as we do not claim butter and margarine are the same.

Pierre Zimmermann, Master baker, Chicago, USA

Fine Gael incapable of thinking

It would appear that between March 2011 and February 2016, the Fine Gael section of the Cabinet that dealt with children was kept under (parental) control by Labour.

Since becoming, to all intents and purposes, the sole party of Government, Fine Gael is proving, on an almost daily basis, it is incapable of mature thinking, let alone action.

That a Taoiseach would attempt to use the advice of the AG to stymie the vote on a bill illustrates very clearly that the Fine Gael ministers imagine they reside in the Ireland of the 1950s, where the word of teachers, clerics and lawyers was even more infallible than that of the Pope.

That there is an ongoing debacle over water, bin and other local government charges shows there is a complete and utter lack of common sense in party politics today.

The majority of people know that taxation, national and local, is part and parcel of the democratic process - and will happily pay. Alas, between them, Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour politicians cannot bring in a reasonable and equitable taxation process: then they wonder why Independents and minor parties are increasing in popularity.

Nigel Farage made this somewhat erroneous claim in the European Parliament: "None of you have done a proper job in your life." I would say of the present Cabinet of Ireland: None of you have ever done the hard yards of austerity!

There is a vast difference.

Declan Foley, Berwick, Australia

Apology due for World War I

Tony Blair apologised for the Famine and David Cameron for Bloody Sunday. How long do we have to wait for a similar retrospective apology for World War I?

In the reported 'commemorations' to date, all official representatives seem to be sidestepping the most glaring truth of all: that no event since the dawn of history was more violent or more barbaric; no 'civilisation' anywhere had delved to such a depth of disrespect for human life, of diabolic bloodlust; that this descent into hell was actively and consciously promoted by the entire establishment of the time, military, political and religious - in all of the contending empires.

We know that in one day alone - July 1, 1916 - the French and German empires offered up 50,000 and 55,000 young casualties respectively, and the British empire a whopping 60,000 young men and boys.

May the ghosts of 15 million dead haunt all commemorations that do not include an apology for the "mass murder", facilitated by civil society, 100 years ago.

Billy Fitzpatrick, Terenure, Dublin 6W

Irish Independent

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