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Monday 19 February 2018

Console may be wound up as charity's board meets to decide its fate

Interim CEO David Hall leaving court. Pic: Collins Courts
Interim CEO David Hall leaving court. Pic: Collins Courts

Shane Phelan and Eilish O'Regan

The future of the troubled suicide bereavement charity Console is likely to be sealed at a crunch meeting this evening.

The Console board will meet and will have to decide if it will direct that the charity be wound up.

The charity - which is now entirely reliant on HSE funding in the wake of revelations of financial abuse by its founder, Paul Kelly - is expected to be liquidated following an application to the High Court.

Lawyers for Mr Kelly, who spent lavishly on cars and holidays using the charity's funds, said that he may now need to make a legal application to secure living expenses.

A previous hearing froze his access to bank accounts.

Console's interim chief executive, David Hall, will present a report to the charity's board this evening, outlining its financial situation and the options now available to it.

The HSE is providing around €70,000 a month to the charity but Console needs €100,000. It has also built up considerable debts. Some counsellors who are owed wages received part-payment yesterday, following a HSE allocation.

Mr Hall said the generosity of its staff, who are also owed wages, had allowed the charity to continue to operate since the scandal erupted.

A meeting took place between Mr Hall and the HSE yesterday to outline updated plans for the transfer of services to other agencies, such as Pieta House and the Samaritans.

This followed a short High Court hearing yesterday morning arising out of proceedings taken against Paul Kelly and members of his family.

The proceedings were adjourned for a week at the request of lawyers for the charity.

Counsel for Console, Martin Hayden SC, said it needed more time to consider the contents of affidavits filed by Mr Kelly, his wife Patricia and son Tim, in which they are said to have outlined their assets.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan agreed to the adjournment and extended orders made last week, freezing the assets of the Kellys, none of whom were present in court. The court heard an application by the Kellys for access to living expenses may be made shortly.

Read more: Paul Kelly's plush home among list of assets disclosed in court

Read more: Cars used by disgraced ex-Console chief Paul Kelly sold at auction

Some 314 people are currently in active counselling with the charity and there are 60 counsellors, all of whom are owed wages. Mr Hall said the charity was receiving around 30 phone calls per day.

The interim chief executive also said he had "no idea" as to Mr Kelly's whereabouts at present. The court had previously been told he was in a psychiatric facility.

Mr Kelly gave an undisclosed list of assets in his affidavit. The assets are understood to include his plush gated home in Clane, Co Kildare.

The house, in Alexandra Manor, is guarded by electric gates.

His other asset is the headquarters of Console in Whitethorn, Celbridge and another residential house, which is used as a counselling centre on the Navan Road and has a large mortgage.

Meanwhile, two Console company cars, used by Paul Kelly and his wife Patricia were sold yesterday for a combined €23,000. Both vehicles were sold to the highest bidders in an auction at Wilsons Auctions, on the Naas Road, last night.

They had previously been secured by David Hall the weekend before last.

Representatives for Mr Kelly and his wife had handed the vehicles over.

One of the cars, a 2009 Mercedes CLS, was sold for €11,000 while the other, a 2010 Audi Q5, sold for €12,000.

The combined total original purchase price for the cars to the charity was €87,000.

The HSE is due to appear before the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee on Friday to answer questions on how it scrutinised applications for funding by Console over the years.

The Irish Independent revealed how a HSE internal audit found that Paul Kelly, in some of his applications, inflated staff numbers and salary costs in a bid to extract a higher grant.

At the same time, he gave lower annual figures in accounts submitted to the Companies Registration Office.

Irish Independent

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