Garda inquiry into Positive Action group ‘almost complete’

Investigation finds over €100,000 allegedly misused by hepatitis C support group

A Garda inquiry into the hepatitis support group Positive Action is substantively complete according to Garda sources.

They told the Irish Times that the findings of the HSE’s audit into the financial affairs of the organisation has formed the basis for the criminal investigation.

The inquiry is being conducted by detectives at Pearse Street Garda station in Dublin's south inner city. The Garda team is now very close to sending the concluding file on the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Garda investigation has concluded that monies from the organisation totalling far in excess of €100,000 were allegedly misused. One source said reports that €200,000 had been taken was “overstating it”.


The Garda inquiry has been ongoing for almost 12 months.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar earlier confirmed that a Garda investigation was underway into allegations of inappropriate spending at the support body. However he moved to reassure women infected with hepatitis C that their medical cards and other benefits remain in place.

Earlier in the day the head of the HSE, Tony O'Brien said senior management was examining the audit report which would be released to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children once it was cleared legally.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee is also to call the HSE to appear before it about the findings of its audit into Positive Action in the weeks ahead.

An internal audit of the organisation showed that, between 2009 and 2013 it spent almost €777,000 on legal costs, €325,000 on weekend events, almost €104,000 on overseas travel, and more than €100,000 on therapies including angel card readings, crystal reading and spiritual healing, massages and beauty treatments.

Other expenses included €19,450 on supermarket bills, gifts worth €2,223, a courier to transport dry cleaning cost €202 and dog kennels cost €185.

The HSE restricted funding to Positive Action in early 2012 while it sought information of the organisation’s spending for 2010 and 2011. In March of that year the Irish Times revealed that the organisation had spent €83,625 on four weekends away for its members and non-infected family members including money spent on gift cards and band hire.

In early 2013 Positive Action began judicial review proceedings against the HSE over a change in an agreement governing its funding however, in May Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled against the organisation, saying "no illegality attaches to the decision of the HSE to impose conditions in relation to future funding".

At the beginning of 2014 the HSE took over the running of Positive Action after raising “serious concerns” over its governance and management of public money.

In March it withdrew funding from the organisation due to what it described as “significant deficits” in the governance of the organisation. The organisation subsequently went into liquidation in April with debts of €107,000.

It was later revealed that a complaint over a “suspected fraud of funds” at the hepatitis C support group had contributed to a decision by the HSE to cease funding to the organisation.