Console controversy: Criminal investigation opens into charity

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement launches inquiry into charity

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement has launched a criminal investigation into the suicide prevention charity Console.

The office has wide-ranging powers to search for and seize documents where breaches of company law are suspected.

Criminal prosecutions are undertaken in the District Court by the office's staff, while more serious cases are referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for potential prosecution on indictment.

A spokesman said it was not the policy of the office to comment on ongoing enforcement activities.

It has also emerged the Health Service Executive has given Console more than €320,000 so far this year – after its own internal audit raised serious issues with spending and governance at the charity.

Minister of State at the Department of Health Helen McEntee, who had previously said no HSE funding was given to the charity this year, yesterday corrected this in a letter to Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy. Ms McEntee said Console has received €321,498 in HSE funding in 2016.

Highly critical

Funding has continued in spite of the fact the highly critical internal audit into Console was substantially completed by the end of last year.

Since then, drafts were sent to Console founder Paul Kelly for his responses and there was engagement between the HSE's mental health division and Mr Kelly.

Most of the funding by the HSE goes to support the helplines and counselling services. The cost of the two helplines in 2014 was €347,000, of which the HSE provided €294,000 and Console €53,000, Mr Kelly told the HSE auditors.

The interim chief executive of Console, David Hall, said the services provided must be protected and he hoped to meet Ms McEntee to discuss this.

Mr Hall, drafted in a week ago to take over after the resignation of Mr Kelly and two other board members, said he hoped to be able to exit his position by leaving the running of the organisation in the hands of the trustees.

However, five new trustees appointed by the Charities Regulator to join the Console board will not be able to take up positions until August.

Mr Hall said his job was to “steady the ship, amid absolute chaos”.

"I'm not Inspector Clouseau and my job is not to be Elliot Ness, " he told RTÉ's Drivetime.

No knowledge


High Court

heard yesterday close to €63,000 was spent in Console through credit cards in the name of Sr

Margaret Joyce

, who had left the organisation six years previously.

In a statement, Sr Joyce’s order, the Daughters of Charity, said it were shocked to learn of this.

It said she left Console in 2009 and had no knowledge of this activity. “As these matters are the subject of investigation, we will not be making further comment at this time.”

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told the Seanad implementation of charity regulatory reforms would be delayed until September 5th to allow for recruitment of staff.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times