Autism charity collapses after years of financial struggles

Former patron Keith Duffy stepped down from Autism Ireland in 2015

Brian Murnane, ex-chief executive and one of three directors of Autism Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Brian Murnane, ex-chief executive and one of three directors of Autism Ireland. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A leading autism charity beset with financial struggles over recent years has collapsed.

Brian Murnane, ex-chief executive and one of three directors of Autism Ireland, the organisation formerly known as Irish Autism Action (IAA), confirmed it was in the process of voluntary liquidation.

The charity, once fronted by Boyzone star Keith Duffy, ceased operations on February 28th almost two decades after it was set up by parents of children with the condition.

“There is a voluntary process under way and things are in the hands of the liquidators,” said Mr Murnane.

“When the directors met to consider going concern, we weren’t confident that we could continue to sustain funding to continue running the organisation as before.

“We decided the responsible thing to do would be to cease operations.

“Directors, as part of the financial auditing process, need to sign a statement of ongoing concern, which essentially is a vote of confidence in the organisation’s ability to meet its financial commitments.

“In short, we didn’t think we could.”

The most recent chief executive Samantha Judge resigned from the charity in early February.

Since being set up in 2001, the organisation delivered Ireland’s first autism specific diagnostic centre, offered training, ran a helpline and gave direct support to families living with autism.

In more recent years, its struggles with fundraising spilled over into the public arena.

Former patron Duffy, the Boyzone singer and actor who has a daughter with autism, stood down as the face of IAA in 2015.

The charity upset parents the following year by cutting its outreach services for families.

At the time Mr Murnane blamed its plunging income on “volatility in fundraising over recent years”.

Donations

Early Childhood Ireland, an umbrella body for the childcare sector, said in 2016 it was withholding €300,000 in donations intended for the IAA until the charity gave specific assurances over how it would be spent.

The dispute was blamed for a delay in its publishing annual accounts.

In a statement, the board of IAA said: “Sadly, the demands of funding service provision have proven to be greater than our ability to raise funds.

“Families living with autism deserve consistent service support that is broader than a charity can provide.

“On balance, we feel it is in the best interests of the community that this be delivered by agencies sustainably funded to do so.”