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Probe into charity which moved elderly out of homes and put in foreign students

Ex-CEO denies wrongdoing as regulator intervenes

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Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn first raised concerns

Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn first raised concerns

Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn first raised concerns

A Housing charity which asked elderly residents to move out of a building, only to replace them with foreign students paying much higher rents, is being investigated by the Charities Regulator.

The move was announced just weeks after Dublin City Council (DCC) requested that Cabhru Housing Association Services (CHAS) surrender the lease on the property.

The council has also withdrawn funding approval for the proposed redevelopment of James McSweeney House on Berkeley Street in the north inner city as a housing facility for older people and will take over the project itself.

The council has been examining several issues at the charity, including allegations former CHAS chief executive Miceal McGovern lived in an apartment at its Gardiner Street complex for a period and he or a family member also lived in a vacated unit.

Mr McGovern, who resigned in February, rejects the claims.

"As far as I am concerned, I haven't done anything wrong," he told the Irish Independent.

In a statement, the Charities Regulator said it received a concern in relation to the use of CHAS's charitable assets in January and, having made inquiries, determined a statutory investigation was warranted. The statement said the opening of an investigation was not in itself a finding of any wrongdoing.

City Councillor Mannix Flynn, who first raised concerns over CHAS, said an independent inquiry was needed to establish what due diligence the council carried out in relation to the charity.

"Tenants were pulled out of their homes and scattered to the four corners. They suffered deep trauma," said Mr Flynn.

The charity has been in existence for 50 years and until recently was known as the Catholic Housing Aid Society.

Its main housing development comprises 99 units at Fr Scully House on Gardiner Street. It also has 41 units in Ballinteer, south Dublin.

Fr McSweeney House on Berkeley Street was acquired on a 99-year lease from Dublin Corporation in 1984 and provided 21 units for the elderly.

According to a report to a council committee by DCC deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny, this arrangement "worked well" until the end of 2016 when it was agreed no more new tenancies would be created pending a full re-development of the property. Planning permission was granted in July 2019 and CHAS was to source alternative accommodation for all existing residents.

However, the report said concerns were raised that CHAS was not dealing adequately or with sufficient sensitivity or flexibility with elderly residents who needed to be re-housed. Mr Kenny said he had to personally intervene and got a "positive" response from CHAS, including written confirmation all tenants would have the option of returning to the re-developed property in the future.

But he said the charity, without notifying the council, installed a number of students on short-term leases into some of the vacated units.

The report said Mr McGovern informed him the charity's board was aware of this and the rationale behind it was that the students would bring greater security to the property and their rents would help pay for the sourcing of suitable alternative accommodation for the remaining residents.

Mr Kenny said the charity's board had indicated it would carry out "a full investigation of all the issues and claims raised" and report back to the council.

In a statement, the charity said it would provide "wholehearted cooperation" to the regulator and its inspectors.


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