Charities Regulator examining dismissal of Order of Malta board

State charities watchdog is seeking information about who is currently in control of the first-aid provider

The Charities Regulator is examining a recent decision made by the Order of Malta to disband its board and is seeking information about who is currently in control of the first-aid provider.

A senior figure in the international organisation of the Order of Malta, FJ McCarthy, effectively sacked the board of the charity’s Irish arm early last month. This prompted the regulator to write to the organisation seeking information about who Mr McCarthy was and how he had the power to disband the board.

Mr McCarthy was appointed by the religious organisation’s headquarters in Rome last June to oversee the Irish organisation following controversy over a former volunteer, who was convicted of sexually abusing two teenage boys.

Scott Browne (32), from Co Kildare, was jailed for 9½ years after he pleaded guilty in 2020 to sexually abusing two 15-year-olds in separate incidents in 2018. Another Kildare volunteer, Jordan Murphy (22), was jailed for 5½ years this May for aiding and abetting Browne.

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At the end of the court proceedings, the board, known as the council, commissioned a full internal investigation into the case and wider child protection standards. The organisation had received two prior complaints about the volunteer allegedly sexually assaulting young men in its ambulance corps, but he was not removed as a volunteer until gardaí began investigating the abuse of the two teenagers.

‘Steering group’

There had been tensions between the council and Mr McCarthy over the status of the review, which was completed by October. Some on the council had been pushing for board members to get a copy of the report, but Mr McCarthy said it needed to first be sent to figures in Rome for approval.

Mr McCarthy, a New York-based businessman, took the decision to disband the council on November 2nd and instead put in place an “executive steering group”. Members of the organisation have not yet been told who sits on this group.

The regulator has sought copies of all correspondence between Mr McCarthy and the council, as well as correspondence from him to grassroots members. It has also requested the order’s financial accounts for last year and minutes of board meetings for this year and last.

The order did not respond to requests for comment on the regulator’s correspondence.

In correspondence to rank and file members at the time, Mr McCarthy said he was left with “no choice” but to disband the board and that the steering group would “assure continuity in governance” and “efficiency of purpose” in the organisation.

In a November 7th decree, the order’s headquarters in Rome delegated Mr McCarthy “full powers of ordinary administration” to run the Irish organisation, given the need for further “drastic intervention”.

The decree, issued several days after the council was disbanded, said his new powers were backdated to the start of the month and that those of “the president, board of directors, the assembly and any other body of the Irish association are suspended” while Mr McCarthy is in place.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times