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Friday 15 December 2017

Regulator expected to order takeover of suicide charity after spending row

Paul Kelly. Photo By : Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus LTD
Paul Kelly. Photo By : Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus LTD

Eilish O'Regan and Caroline Crawford

The charity regulator is expected to order the takeover of Console, the troubled suicide bereavement organisation, by installing a new board within days.

Regulator John Farrelly, who summoned a number of former and current directors of the counselling agency to his offices yesterday, is understood to be considering the appointment of his own set of trustees to oversee its activities.

Console, which continues to provide counselling services in various centres, is currently under investigation by gardaí and the HSE for its use of funds.

Chief executive Paul Kelly and two directors - his wife Patricia and sister Joan - have already resigned.

Console, which has generated €12m in income in nine years, is alleged to have paid its directors €215,000 in contravention of charity rules and also listed well-known figures as directors who had no association with the organisation.

Leading psychiatrist Dr Justin Brophy, chairman of the Irish Association of Suicidology, told the Irish Independent he was shocked to be told he was listed without his permission as a director of Console even though he had no links with the organisation.

He described the developments with Console as "disappointing and damaging" for a sector in which so much good work has been done. "It is damaging for the credibility and future support," he said.

His organisation has submitted a plan for the tighter regulation of suicide charities, of which there are currently at least 232 across the country.

If implemented, it should lead to more rigorous accountability that will result in rationalisation, he added.

Meanwhile, Peter Roche, a Fine Gael councillor in Galway, who lost his son Colin to suicide and became an ambassador for Console, said he will not be carrying out any more fundraising until he receives assurances that controls are in place.

Mr Roche said he was "bitterly distressed" by the claims, adding that he worried about whether the charity could survive such a scandal.

"I first got involved about four and a half years ago, a year after we lost Colin. I wanted to show others who need help where to get it and not to suffer in silence. I was completely oblivious to this, maybe with hindsight I should have queried where the fundraising was going but I never would have expected that this was the case," he said.

Mr Roche, who receives no pay or expenses from Console, helped raise thousands of euros for the charity over the years, including recently raising €2,200 from his mayoral ball.

However, after being left stunned by recent revelations around spending at the charity, Mr Roche has vowed he will not hand over the latest fundraising monies until a full investigation has taken place.

"I am very anxious about this news and I am determined to get answers. This fundraising was done at my mayoral ball after my year as mayor among my colleagues and others for the counselling services and I need assurances on how it will be spent before I hand it over," he added.

Irish Independent

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