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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Row over €300k public funds for Irish Autism Action settled after legal mediation

IAA chief excecutive Brian Murnane Picture: Collins
IAA chief excecutive Brian Murnane Picture: Collins
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A row over €300,000 in public funds raised for Irish Autism Action but withheld because of concerns over its finances has been settled after legal mediation.

Early Childhood Ireland, a state funded children’s advocacy organisation which raised the €300k, will announce this week that it will release some but not all of the money to the autism charity.

The agreement was trashed out in legal mediation and Early Childhood Ireland is expected to release a statement confirming it following its board meeting on Monday night.

The deal brings to an end a fractious dispute over the funds.

The money was raised for Irish Autism Action by Early Childhood Ireland’s National Pyjama Day event last March.  The organisation decided not to hand the money over after it emerged that Irish Autism Action had cut its services to families to concentrate on advocacy and information campaigns.

The moved angered parents of children with autism who questioned the charity’s financial viability, and complained to the Charities Regulator.

It emerged that the number of families receiving outreach services from Irish Autism Action was cut from 400 families to two, and parents complained that their calls to the charity were going unanswered.

The charity is mostly funded by public donations and sponsorship. It has raised huge sums in public donations, most recently, €969,320 in 2014 and €1.3m the previous year.  However, it has been struggling financially - it ran up a deficit of €74,133 in 2014 - which prompted a structural review of the charity's activities. The board of IAA agreed that the charity should focus on national advocacy rather than providing services.

Early Childhood Ireland said it will be making a statement on the National Pyjama Day funds on Tuesday.

Brian Murnane, chief executive of Irish Autism Action, this weekend said the charity was “pleased with the outcome” and wishes Early Childhood Ireland “all the best in the future.”

He said the charity was unable to file its accounts for 2015 until the issue of the €300,000 was resolved. He said he is now working on finalising the charity’s accounts.

Sunday Independent

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