Former chief executive of the Console charity Paul Kelly dies

Founder of suicide prevention organisation resigned after credit card spending of almost €500,000 emerged

 Former Console Boss Paul Kelly who has died.  Photograph: Collins

Former Console Boss Paul Kelly who has died. Photograph: Collins

 

The former chief executive of the suicide prevention charity Console, Paul Kelly, has died.

Mr Kelly was found dead in his home in Alexander Manor, Clane, Co Kildare, on Sunday evening.

In a statement, a Garda spokesman said the “incident is being treated as a personal tragedy”, and no further comment would be made on the death.

Console was shut down after a major controversy over how the charity was spending funds. In June 2016, it emerged the charity founder and chief executive Paul Kelly, his wife Patricia, and son Tim had run up credit card bills of almost €500,000 on items such as groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips.

Mr Kelly resigned from the charity after the details emerged and it was wound up shortly afterwards.

Before the charity’s collapse on foot of the controversy, which was first exposed by RTÉ’s PrimeTime programme, it had 58 part-time staff working as counsellors across the country on a contract basis, serving more than 300 clients. The charity also had 12 full-time staff who ran a 24/7 suicide counselling helpline.

Businessnman David Hall was brought in as an interim chief executive to oversee the liquidation of the charity, and services such as the 24/7 helpline were transferred to another suicide prevention charity Pieta House. The charity also took on the former Console staff.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) had opened an investigation into the Console controversy, but to date no charges had been brought against any individuals.

The State corporate watchdog previously secured a High Court order in July 2018 to allow investigators examine material on computers taken from the suicide counselling charity.

An internal Department of Foreign Affairs audit on foot of the controversy, also later found no evidence that more than €150,000 in grants provided to the British arm of the charity, Console UK, were used to provide counselling services to Irish emigrants as claimed.

Mr Hall said the Console spending resulted in a “plummeting of public confidence” in the entire charity sector, which had led to a difficult fundraising environment in recent years.

Commenting on the death of Mr Kelly, Mr Hall said “obviously it is a personal tragedy for the Kelly family… No one wants anyone to take their own life.”

However, he was critical of the time lag of more than three years in the ODCE investigation in bringing any charges in the case.

“People who were involved in the charity and others were looking for answers, with him goes answers to questions people deserved to know,” he told The Irish Times.

Mr Hall said staff, fundraisers and clients using the counselling service had all been let down by the spending controversy.

“The staff felt violated, they felt they were misled and lied to,” he said.

Several individuals who had fundraised for the charity had themselves lost loved ones to suicide and felt “utterly betrayed” by Paul Kelly, he said.

While working to liquidate the charity and transfer its services elsewhere Mr Hall said his “biggest fear was one of the clients would die by suicide” amid the fallout of the controversy.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised, you can contact:

Samaritans: freephone 116123, text 087-260 9090

Pieta House: freephone 1800-247247, or text HELP to 51444