Console charity expected to seek protection of High Court

Sources say it is likely board will seek aid to help protect assets and retrieve other assets

Paul Kelly, the  founder of suicide charity Console,  has denied allegations of mismanagement and poor governance. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Paul Kelly, the founder of suicide charity Console, has denied allegations of mismanagement and poor governance. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Console is expected to seek the protection of the High Court today in the latest twist in the controversy involving the suicide prevention charity.

Sources said it was likely the board of Console would apply to the court for assistance to help protect its assets and to retrieve other assets.

The move follows a stand-off between the board and Console founder Paul Kelly, who maintains he still runs the charity despite the fact that his resignation was announced last week.

The situation is complicated by the fact Mr Kelly and his wife Patricia own the house in Celbridge, Co Kildare, used as offices by the charity.

Staff have alleged company records went missing from a locker in the offices over the weekend.

Console, which is under investigation by five State bodies over allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending, is also being pursued by the UK charity regulator, the Charity Commission.

Investigation begun

The commission said it has begun an investigation into Console, which has received almost €130,000 from the Department of Foreign Affairs under its emigrant support programme.

“The Charity Commission has significant regulatory concerns regarding the UK charity Console Suicide Prevention Limited,” a spokesman told The Irish Times.

“We have opened a regulatory case and engaged with the charity outlining these concerns. We are liaising with all required UK and Éire authorities.”

The UK operation was run by Tim Kelly, son of founder Paul Kelly, who was paid at a rate of £600 sterling a week, untaxed, by Console in Ireland.

The Irish Charities Regulatory Authority is expected to announce the appointment of new trustees to the board of Console after a meeting today.

Figures from the not-for-profit and corporate governance sectors have been approached about appointment to the board using powers the authority has under charities legislation.

Businessman David Hall, one of two external reviewers appointed last week to examine Console, said on Wednesday the situation was under control and the “inexcusable” practices highlighted in a HSE internal audit were no longer happening.

However, it has emerged that Mr Kelly has not furnished a signed copy of his resignation as chief executive of the suicide prevention charity, even though this was announced last week.

An external review by Mr Hall and forensic accountant Tom Murray expresses concern over whether he continues to control the organisation’s bank accounts and a number of company credit cards.

The controversy was raised in the Dáil on Wednesday, where Opposition TDs demanded to know why action was not taken sooner.

Fianna Fáil deputy John Brassil asked why the HSE “sat” on its internal audit for six months when multiple credit cards held by Mr Kelly and his family were “live”, and why it continued to fund Console after concerns were raised in 2009.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy criticised the emphasis on due process in situations where immediate reaction was needed and a “pattern of misrepresentation” existed.

Funds on hold

In Galway, former county mayor Cllr Peter Roche, who lost his son Colin to suicide and who has been a Console ambassador, has put funds he collected for the charity on hold until a review is complete. The funds relate to €2,200 he raised at the county mayoral ball in Tuam.

Mr Hall and Mr Murray say they are considering whether protection of the High Court is required in order to protect the charity, its assets and the vital services it provides.

They say their concerns are “of the highest degree imaginable” and they will be taking independent legal advice in this regard.

A statement issued by Console last Thursday stated that Mr Kelly had stepped down as chief executive and that his wife and sister had resigned as directors. This followed revelations about Mr Kelly’s past and allegations of mismanagement at the charity made in an RTÉ documentary the same day.

Mr Kelly and his wife Patricia were not in a position to engage on Friday, the day two external reviewers began their investigation of the company’s affairs.

A meeting was to be held with the Kellys on Monday to arrange access to the books and for them to be interviewed by the reviewers.

On Monday, Mr Kelly appeared in the charity’s offices in Celbridge saying he had not resigned and that he was continuing to act in the capacity of chief executive officer of the company, according to an interim report by the external reviewers.

Mr Kelly has denied allegations of mismanagement and poor governance.