Sunday 17 December 2017

'To be taking advantage of the generosity of people who fundraise on cold, dark nights is just so wrong'

Elma Walsh, the mother of Donal Walsh Picture: Mick McCormack
Elma Walsh, the mother of Donal Walsh Picture: Mick McCormack

Laura Larkin and Luke Byrne

High-profile campaigners who supported Console have spoken of their shock at the news that the troubled charity is to be wound down.

Elma Walsh, mum of the late teen Donal Walsh who inspired a wave of charitable work to support suicide prevention during his battle with cancer, said she was "shocked and disappointed" at the latest twist in the saga.

The Donal Walsh LiveLife Foundation donated money to fund teenage counselling rooms in a Console centre in Tralee.


"The areas that Console are in are very vulnerable areas and I'd be worried about the people of Ireland, really," she said.

"There is a lot of people bereaved by suicide who need counselling and who need the assistance from them.

"I'm very shocked and disappointed to hear they are rolling down the services. I hope someone can come in and take over from them.

"We put the rooms in [Console House in Tralee] because we thought that it would be a permanent facility for teenagers and you would hope that it would stay open," she added. Mrs Walsh said that charities will undoubtedly suffer from a fall in donations on the back of the scandal.

"I wouldn't blame people for not giving to charities if they don't know where the money is going.

"A lot of it is going into wages and admin. The thing with us is, we don't take a wage and we give to teenage projects that have a five-year benefit," she said.

"It's amazing the generosity in people out there.

"To take advantage of the generosity of people who fundraise in bad weather on cold, dark nights and to abuse that money is just so wrong."

Ms Walsh said she met with Mr Kelly, the disgraced ex-CEO, on three occasions and never got the impression that there was anything out of the ordinary about the running of the charity.

Meanwhile, well-known restaurateur Derry Clarke, who lost his son Andrew to suicide in 2013, has said that the winding down of services is a "shame" given all of the good work done by Console frontline staff.

"It's an awful shame. They did a great job, as an organisation what they did was great," he said.

"The staff were brilliant... It just shows what one person's actions can do.

"I don't want to look upon it as a waste, the best you can say that came out of it is awareness so that was one benefit, I suppose," he added.

"The downside was it was just a waste, a waste of money. It's a spectacular charity, it's a complete waste for everyone involved and it's a shame. Especially because people had good intentions and there was good, honest people working at it, it was doing really well.

"To sum it up - when I was doing the cycle and doing this and that, I felt that I was doing something positive for myself and my memories and my son's memories.

"Suddenly you have this (controversy) and it takes away from that. It takes away from the achievement.

"I feel for all the great people who worked there, the volunteers and the fundraisers," he said.

Separately the Senator, singer and charity head Frances Black has said revelations about former Console CEO Paul Kelly have left her shocked and disappointed.

Mr Kelly was also a director of Ms Black's charity The Rise Foundation, set up to help families of people who struggle with addiction.

The charity was established in 2009.

She has moved to reassure its supporters the disgraced charity chief had no involvement in the foundation's finances and received no funds or remuneration of any kind for his work.

"Given the current case and the allegations, he has been told to resign," she said.

Ms Black said the charity had sent him a letter, but had­ yet to receive a response.

Mr Kelly had backed Ms Black's campaign for election to the Seanad and she spoke of her personal shock at the allegations against him.

"As you can imagine, I'm very upset by it all. I'm shocked. I'm disappointed. It knocked me for six.

"I really hope the work of Console continues. The people in that charity are fantastic. I hope, because the service is great, that it continues," she said. "It's about corporate governance not the staff," she said.

Irish Independent

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