Friday 20 September 2019

Harris refuses to pay wages owed to Console staff

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture:
Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture:
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Health Minister Simon Harris says it would be "inappropriate" for health funds to be used to pay former staff of controversy-hit suicide charity Console who were left in the lurch after it closed.

Console - which is in the process of being liquidated - was struck by scandal last year after a HSE audit into its finances found lavish spending on charity credit cards held by its boss, Paul Kelly.

A number of ex-workers were left unpaid and their case has been raised with the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In his letter, the Health Minister said that it was his "sincere hope" that there were sufficient funds to resolve the issue of their pay after the liquidation process was complete.

However, he said the use of State money "to discharge the liabilities of a third party would be inappropriate".

Commenting on the letter at yesterday's PAC meeting, chairman Seán Fleming said the committee had made its view clear on the issue that there was "an onus on the department to make an ex gratia payment to these individuals".

Fianna Fáil TD Mr Fleming argued that "a significant reason why these people were not paid monies due to them can be attributed to the lack of oversight by the HSE in the first place in relation to monitoring the Console organisation".

He said the PAC couldn't force Mr Harris to take action but added: "We are again appealing to him to reconsider and I'm proposing we not let this matter go."

Mr Fleming indicated the matter may be included in a PAC report in the coming months.

He added: "Effectively, we are saying we're not satisfied with his [Mr Harris's] response and we will come back to it again."

Irish Independent

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