Console founder Paul Kelly asked to return People of the Year award

Organisation says following ‘revelations’ it wants to protect ‘standing and integrity’ of awards

Paul Kelly, the founder of suicide charity Console. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Paul Kelly, the founder of suicide charity Console. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Console founder Paul Kelly has been asked to return his People of the Year award to protect the integrity of the accolades.

A statement from the People of the Year Awards said that “in light of revelations in recent days and on foot of queries from members of the public,” it has written to Mr Kelly asking him to return it “ in order to protect the standing and integrity of the awards.”

“Throughout their distinguished history, the People of the Year Awards have afforded the Irish people the opportunity to honour individuals and groups who have made a contribution to our society,” it said.

“The value and esteem of the awards is based on the high regard that the people of Ireland have for the award recipients and the fact that each of the winners is nominated by members of the public,” the statement said.

Mr Kelly received the award in 2014 for suicide prevention work through Console. “ The adjudication panel selected Mr Kelly as an award winner on the basis of the nomination received and the information available at the time,” it said.

According to a Health Service Executive audit, Mr Kelly, his wife and son ran up credit card bills of almost €500,000 on items such as groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips over a three-year period.

Mr Kelly, his wife Patricia and their son Tim, benefitted by almost €500,000 in salaries and cars over the period from 2012 to 2014, the audit has also established.

The People of the Year Awards is organised by charity Rehab and was established in 1975. According to their website it recognises who have “through their bravery, their perserverence, their talent, generosity and commitment... enriched the lives of others”.

The former mayor of Galway Peter Roche, a former ambassador and fundraiser for Console, has said the organisation was “irreparably damaged” and “tarnished”.