Smurfit business school got €9m from American Ireland Funds

The amount was by far the largest single donation made by the AIF in 2017

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School was the big winner in the $29.47 million (€25.6 million) donated to more than 350 organisations and projects here and across the world by the American Ireland Funds (AIF) in 2017.

Documentation provided to the US tax authorities by the AIF shows that the graduate business school received a donation of $10.63 million (€9.23 million) from the fund in 2017 – by far the largest single donation made by the AIF that year.

The purpose of the grant is to support the Smurfit business school through helping to fund a state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility – The Centre for the Future of Learning Capital Project.

The project is part of a planned €65 million spend over five years as part of UCD’s Vision 2020 for the university’s college of business.


The AIF report on the donation shows that $1.75 million of the grant had been spent by August 14th, 2018.

The donation by the AIF to the Smurfit school was part of $29.47 million given to 352 organisations and projects across Ireland and Irish communities worldwide in 2017.

Irish causes

The AIF is part of the Worldwide Ireland Funds that were founded in 1976 by Sir Anthony O'Reilly and a former US ambassador to Ireland, the late Dan Rooney. They have so far raised more than $600 million for causes in Ireland and Irish causes around the world, benefiting more than 3,200 organisations.

The tax documentation shows that the now departed chief executive of the AIF, Kieran McLoughlin, received $699,000 in pay, bonus and benefits in his last full year at the helm of the organisation, in 2017.

Mr McLoughlin stepped down from the chief executive role last October and served in an advisory capacity to the fund before leaving the organisation on December 31st last.

In 2017, Mr McLoughlin saw his basic pay rise by 15 per cent to $535,000.

Mr McLoughlin’s overall $699,000 pay included a performance-related bonus of $100,000 which was lower than the $158,333 bonus paid to him in 2016.

It emerged in October last year that a former AIF employee is alleged to have embezzled $579,000 from the organisation. The documentation lodged by AIF with the US tax authorities alleges that in 2018, the AIF discovered that an ex-employee in a regional office in the US misappropriated $249,000 in 2017 and $330,000 in 2016.

Alleged embezzlement

The documentation states that given the nature of the alleged embezzlement, the amounts involved had been reported primarily as event expenses in the statement of activities for each year.

The note states that management of the fund “has revised policies and procedures related to procurement, hiring procedures and oversight of financial activities”.

In court documents, the ex-employee has denied that she stole from the charity and has asserted that “in the event that it is found” that she took the property of AIF, she did so by “mistake or accident”.

Mr McLoughlin said in October that the alleged misappropriation “did occur on my watch. As chief executive, I have to take responsibility for that. Leadership has consequences and this crystallised my decision to leave.”

Leadership programme

The AIF returns to US tax authorities show that a large number of Irish organisations received grants in 2017 – Barnardos received $79,525 for a Family Support Service while the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) received $80,000 to fund a leadership programme for GAA players.

One of the most exclusive private schools in the country, Glenstal Abbey in Co Limerick, received $155,000 in grants in 2017 under several headings including $110,000 to enable the Abbey build a pedestrian bridge linking the monastery and the library.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times