Shatter speech on Rehab adds punch to charities controversy

Disclosure in Dáil has brought public concern over organisation to a new level

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s speech last night has switched the spotlight to Rehab, an  organisation many people have been itching to get their teeth into and is another stick of political dynamite. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s speech last night has switched the spotlight to Rehab, an organisation many people have been itching to get their teeth into and is another stick of political dynamite. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 14:38

In a way, it was inevitable that Rehab would be dragged into the charities, controversy - the only question was how it would be done.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter gave the answer last night when he used a speech during a Sinn Féin private member’s motion to raise concerns about the profits of Rehab Lotteries.

He said an audit of Rehab Lotteries carried out by his department showed it yielded a net profit of just €558,000 from €7.2 million in sales in 2010.

One particular scratchcard product with sales of almost €4 million produced a profit of less than €9,500 the same year.

Shatter’s speech has switched the spotlight to the organisation many people have been itching to get their teeth into and is another stick of political dynamite.

Rehab’s chief executive Angela Kerins declined to reveal her exact salary when pressed on Morning Ireland recently, although she previously put it at €234,000.

Nevertheless, her remuneration has been a constant source of speculation.

Kerins says the majority of Rehab’s activities are commercial, but the Sandymount, Dublin, based provider of education, training and employment for people with disabilities, does receive around €50 million from the State.

The Public Accounts Committee had signalled its eagerness to examine Rehab’s operations and funding, but Mr Shatter’s disclosure has brought public concern over the organisation to a new level.

Rehab scratchcards are the link between what the public takes out of its pocket and gives to the charity - in much the same vein as Santa Bears and the Central Remedial Clinic.

The link between what the public gives and how the charity spends it has now been established, and Rehab must offer an explanation quite quickly rather than complain that Shatter has overstepped his mark.

They accused him of interfering in the judicial process by questioning the “costly” legal action the charity has taken against the State.

They may have a point, and some people have noted that Shatter has had trouble with using information in the past, a reference to when he used details given to him by the Garda Commissioner during a Prime Time debate with Independent TD Mick Wallace.

However, he was in a television studio then, but the Dáil chamber last night, with the benefit of privilege.

That quibbling will be lost in the politics of it all. You just had to listen to Enda Kenny in the Dáil at lunchtime to gauge the Government’s attitude to all of this.

“Coming into Government, many of the political carpets that had been lifted, many of the financial carpets that had been lifted in the past period had been infested with maggots. This Government is in the business of clearing up a legacy of untold proportions.”

The white hats show no sign of letting up on this controversy.