Sunday 19 January 2020

Autism agency chief admits charity got €600k from State

Ex-Boyzone star Duffy taking legal advice on fundraising comments

Keith Duffy (with his wife Lisa) was awarded an honorary fellowship for autism work by RCS. Photo: Ray Lohan/ RCSI
Keith Duffy (with his wife Lisa) was awarded an honorary fellowship for autism work by RCS. Photo: Ray Lohan/ RCSI

Luke Byrne and Nicola Anderson

Irish Autism Action (IAA) CEO Brian Murnane has been forced to admit the charity has received over €600,000 from the Government - despite claiming it receives "no state funding".

Mr Murnane, caused a storm this week when he admitted there was no written budget for 2016.

He claimed budgeting was a "hazardous occupation" for a charity because "you're at the mercy of fundraised income".

An Irish Independent investigation found how the IAA received grants from various Government departments, including at least €678,066 from the Department of the Environment (DoE) between 2008 and 2014.

Read More: 'I never got any thanks after 14 years of raising funds', says Keith Duffy

When contacted, Mr Murnane at first claimed "we receive no state funding," apart from a contribution from the HSE for behaviour staff - which he said was "insufficient" to cover the cost.

He also said "the charity applied for and received a fixed-term once-off grant from Pobal," the Irish language body, but added this was not a "perpetual" grant.

However, when put to him the IAA had received other substantial state grants, he conceded "the information is correct on the grants" having "double checked" the figures.

The DoE said grants were made under the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO) for seven years, but that IAA did not apply for a new round of funding in July 2014. It is unclear why it did not apply.

Annual accounts for the charity for the year 2012, showed 6pc of its funding listed under 'Government grant,' while 4pc was under the heading 'contract work for HSE'.

That year, its total income was just over €1.7m. During the year, the IAA received a grant of €90,000 from the Department of Community Affairs.

The charity conducted assessment and diagnosis of 178 children in 2012, under contract from some HSE regions, according to the report.

The following year, the IAA's accounts said it received €77,083 from the Department of the Environment under a grant scheme.

The same accounts broke down the charity's €1.4m income for 2013, including 6pc listed under 'Government grant' and 5pc under 'HSE contracts'.

The last accounts filed with the Company Records Office (CRO) for the IAA were for the year 2014.

The charity's income was €969,320, including 5pc from 'HSE contracts'.

The HSE was not in a position respond to questions about its funding of the IAA yesterday.

Meanwhile, former Boyzone star Keith Duffy has hit out at the charity, saying it took his time and voluntary fundraising efforts for granted.

The singer and actor, who has a child with autism, worked as a campaigner for IAA for 14 years.

"After all I had done, when I did step down, I didn't even receive as much as a thank you card, or my wife never even received as much as a bunch of flowers," he told the Irish Independent.

He was reacting after Mr Murnane, allegedly claimed at a meeting with 'Irish Autsim Mammys' that while Mr Duffy raised €8m for the charity, this cost €7m.

Mr Duffy said he was taking legal advice about the comment.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Murnane explained what he meant was it is difficult to estimate and it was a gross figure.

However, when asked to clarify how it cost €7m to raise €8m, Mr Murnane yesterday said he did not make the comment, which was attributed to him from the meeting.

Irish Independent

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