Concern at fund raising report by child hospice group


CONCERN has been expressed at indications that the All Ireland Children's Hospice (AICH) may resume fund raising shortly. Galway Hospice Foundation has claimed that fund raisers on behalf of the AICH have in the past approached bereaved people after death notices have referred to Galway Hospice.

The fund raising, it alleged, coincided with bereaved people in Galway placing newspaper death notices for family members and requesting "No flowers please, donations in lieu to Galway Hospice." The AICH is currently under Garda investigation after it emerged that the registered charity has a deficit of more than £50,000 in accounts for a period up to October 1994.

Sister Gregory O'Reilly, who has headed the campaign to set up a children's hospice, has strongly denied any financial wrongdoing. But a controversy has continued over fund raising techniques.

In Longford there was disquiet over the use of a photograph of a terminally ill child. Sister O'Reilly has dissociated herself from this.

The funding and administration manager for Galway Hospice, Ms Mary Derrig, said the hospice had made numerous complaints to the Garda about AICH fund raising activities. It has also been forced to publish newspaper notices dissociating itself from the AICH.

"Galway Hospice, which operates a homecare service and has built a £2 million hospice, has no connection whatsoever with the campaign to set up an all Ireland children's hospice", Ms Derrig added.

She alleged that the AICH had failed to distinguish itself clearly from Galway Hospice when collecting in the Galway area.

"People are associating the AICH with Galway Hospice. People very often don't question collectors and dig deep. We have had people ringing us saying there are people collecting in their area and they're worried about them."

Sister O'Reilly was not available for comment on this. She is a member of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady, which has a house in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

At St Francis Medical Centre, which is run by the order and was at one point used for address purposes by AICH, a spokeswoman said Sister O'Reilly was now living in Dublin.

The order's regional supervisor, Sister Pauline O'Sullivan, said it had no involvement whatsoever with the AICH. While those involved may have been based in Mullingar initially, she understood they had "moved to Dublin".

Sister O'Reilly was said to be "on study leave" from a law firm where she is working.

She told a Sunday newspaper recently that the charity would be back on the streets soon selling scratch cards. She defended the level of expenditure by the charity and claimed AICH workers would be exonerated.

The Garda is continuing to investigate the charity's activities. A report is due to be sent to the Minister for Justice shortly.