Gorta-Self Help Africa: Staff ‘lost all confidence’ in charity chief executive

Investigation into Irish aid organisation makes several findings against since-departed charity chief Ray Jordan

An internal investigation into Irish aid charity Gorta-Self Help Africa found senior staff in the organisation had “lost all confidence” in the management of the organisation, and upheld multiple complaints last year against its then chief executive.

An inquiry carried out by a barrister found the charity had accepted a $300,000 donation from a US company that sells rifle scopes, ATN, with staff complaining its links to the arms industry raised “ethical” issues.

Staff also had concerns about the organisation’s “ad hoc” decision to get involved in humanitarian work in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, which the report said “displayed problematic behaviours” as well as “poor management”.

It found Ray Jordan, then chief executive, travelled to Ukraine during the war there without insurance and “against best practice” and protocols, which the report said increased “unnecessary risk”.


The charity’s board appointed a barrister, Gearóid Ó Brádaigh, to conduct an internal investigation after seven senior members of staff lodged a joint complaint against Mr Jordan to Peter McDevitt, the charity’s chief finance and operations officer, last March.

The complaint claimed the charity was facing potential “financial risk and media scandals” related to decisions that were not taken in the best interests of the charity.

The overseas development charity, which mainly focuses on supporting small farmers in Africa, received €6 million in State funding last year.

The report, completed in July 2022 and seen by The Irish Times, upheld several of the complaints made by staff.

Mr Jordan became chief executive of Self Help Africa in 2007, and was appointed group chief executive when the charity merged with Gorta in 2014. The report said he rejected all the complaints made by staff, which he told the investigator were a co-ordinated attempt to “destroy his good name”.

He left the position late last year and joined UK-based aid charity Penny Appeal as chief of international network.

The report upheld complaints from staff about Gorta-Self Help Africa’s involvement in a project to distribute a blood filtration device in the developing world.

Despite spending considerable time and resources, Mr Ó Brádaigh said it appeared “nothing like the anticipated results” had come from the project, apart from a “breakdown in trust” between senior staff and the chief executive.

There was “considerable justification” for the staff’s perception that the project was a “highly questionable long-shot” which could “backfire on the organisation’s reputation in the long-term”, the report said.

Several staff had expressed concern over the involvement in the project of businessman Robert “Bob” Breen, who had sat on the Gorta Group board for a year.

During a board meeting in May 2020, Mr Jordan received the green light to explore the charity’s partnering with the Californian medical company producing the blood filtration device, and Mr Breen.

The report said that the following month, a for-profit company, Breen Gorta Health Ltd, was registered in the UK without the knowledge of the board. It said it was “extraordinary” that the board and senior managers “would be kept in the dark of these developments”.

Mr Jordan told the investigator he had “no hand, act or part” in the formation of the company, which was later dissolved without trading.

Neither Mr Jordan, Mr Breen nor Gorta-Self Help Africa responded to requests for comment.

The charity notified the Department of Foreign Affairs, one of its main funders, of the governance issues last September.

It is understood that following talks with department officials, the charity returned the $300,000 donation from the rifle scope supplier ATN.

A department spokesman said officials had engaged with the Gorta Group, “who have taken action in accordance with its responsibilities to deal with the issues involved”.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times