Laois woman leaves €30m windfall to five charities in her will

Property and newspaper owner Elizabeth O’Kelly(92) gives Irish Cancer Society €6m


A Co Laois woman has bequeathed a total of €30 million to five charities in a massive windfall for the sector, it has emerged.

One of those to receive an equal €6 million is the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) for which the bequest is the single largest donation it has received.

Identifying Elizabeth O’Kelly, from Stradbally, Co Laois as the donor, the ICS said the amount represents the income of two annual Daffodil Days.

Mrs O’Kelly’s “kindness and generosity is reflected in her decision to leave equal amounts in her will to five charities,” it said.

The other charities include the Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Kidney Association, the Irish Society for Autistic Children and the RNLI.

According to the ICS annual financial statement, “the society is currently investigating a number of high impact and transformational projects in which the bequeathed funds will be invested”.

Mrs O’Kelly, who died in her 93rd year in December 2016, was a shareholder in Clylim Properties, which has extensive property interests in Dublin. She also made about €30 million from the sale of the Leinster Leader newspaper in 2005.

A statement from the ICS today stated: “We are deeply grateful to Mrs Elizabeth O’Kelly for generously remembering people with cancer in her will. Her generosity will provide hope to so many people affected by cancer and deliver improvements in cancer care that would have been impossible otherwise.

“Mrs O’Kelly successfully battled cancer in the 1980s. She knew first-hand the challenges cancer patients face and the positive difference the Irish Cancer Society makes to them in their time of need.”

Only 2 per cent of the ICS’s income comes from the State and the €6 million windfall for the society contributed to its income increasing by 18 per cent to €26.8 million last year.

The society’s expenditure totalled €20.32 million resulting in a surplus of €6.5 million for the year – compared with a surplus of €1.65 million in 2016.

The accounts show that last year the Irish Cancer Society last year generated €3.13 million through Daffodil Day and a further €9.55 million from ‘Events, Corporate Initiatives and Direct Marketing’.

The society’s network of shops generated €3.78 million in revenues and created a profit of €813,000 after shop costs of €2.97 million are taken into account.

Numbers employed by the society last year increased from 142 to 148. The society also employs night nurses to provide free end-of-life care in patients’ homes.

Six of the society’s workforce last year earned between €90,000 and €100,000 with former Irish Cancer Society chief executive, John McCormack earning in the €130,000 to €140,000 bracket.

Former senator Averil Power was appointed as chief executive of the ICS in January of this year.

The ICS stated today that Ms Power is paid an annual salary of €125,000 and this is a reduction of €20,000 on what was paid to the chief executive in 2015.

Ms Power receives a car allowance of €10,000 per annum and the society also contributes 15 per cent of salary to her Defined Contribution pension.

Tara Matthews, deputy executive director of the Irish Society for Autism, said the group was “greatly appreciative” of Mrs O’Kelly’s €6 million donate, which is the largest single donation they have ever received.

“A contribution of this size will have a major impact on the society’s work and help to progress the understanding of autism within Ireland,” she said.

“ Equipped with knowledge and training, we can all make a significant impact in helping improve the lives of those with autism and their families.”