FIACH KELLY, MARK HILLIARD
The board of the Central Remedial Clinic is coming under mounting political pressure to explain its use of funds raised by a charitable company to top up the salaries of its former chief executive Paul Kiely and other senior managers.
The money came from Friends and Supporters of the Remedial Clinic, a separate company which generates funds from a lottery.
As the Government rounded on the CRC leadership, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said last night that the board should resign. Although Minister for Health James Reilly reserved his position, a succession of other senior Government figures voiced biting criticism of the CRC directors.
Asked yesterday evening on RTÉ radio whether the board should resign, Mr Quinn said "Yes I do", adding that the example it had given was utterly unacceptable.
“Everyone in the public sector has had reductions of pay, and certainly there’s been a pay cap. Voluntary organisations that receive substantial money from the taxpayer through the relevant Government departments are not an exception to that rule.”
The Irish Times asked a CRC spokeswoman by email whether the board had any response to Mr Quinn but she did not answer, nor was there any comment from any CRC director. These included Mr Kiely, still a board member, who did not return calls for the second successive day.
There was no endorsement of the board from Dr Reilly. "The Minister's position is that it's a little premature and precipitous to be calling for resignations when the Health Service Executive validation process is ongoing," a spokesman for Dr Reilly said.
However, there was biting criticism of the board from other members of the Cabinet. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said charitable donations should not be used to fund "lavish salaries".
At the Labour conference in Killarney last night, she said the disclosures were "extremely disturbing". It was "very important" that the organisation clarified the issues that had been disclosed so far, she said.
In Limerick, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said there should be no more top- ups. "I think the Minister for Public Expenditure has made the Government's position clear," he said. "There are pay limits across the public service and they must apply to voluntary organisations.
“The same rules apply – so there shouldn’t be top-ups.”
In Dublin, Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes also criticised the CRC. Commenting on the top-up disclosures generally as well on the situation in the CRC, he said: "I think they are shocking. There is no justification quite frankly to these enormous top-ups."
He added: “Obviously this system has developed unchecked in recent years. The fact that the audit through the HSE has revealed this is good.
Other CRC directors maintained their silence yesterday.
Voice messages left for board member Vincent Brady were not returned, nor were messages left on the mobile phone of Jim Nugent. Hamilton Goulding, whose mother Lady Valerie Goulding founded the CRC, did not return calls.
Another director, Ailbhe Rice Jones, could not be reached by telephone. There was no response to a message left last night for Mary Day.
Another board member, David Martin, did not return calls while it was not possible to make contact with Frances Sheppard, Martin Walsh, Hassia Jameson or Pat Martin.