Calls for Charities Regulator to investigate ICHH controversy

Garda to review policy around vetting of people working with homeless charities

Anthony Flynn, the former chief executive of ICHH who died last month, had been under investigation by gardaí in relation to two alleged sexual assaults. Photograph: Alan Betson

Anthony Flynn, the former chief executive of ICHH who died last month, had been under investigation by gardaí in relation to two alleged sexual assaults. Photograph: Alan Betson

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

The Charities Regulator has been called on to investigate the homeless charity, Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), following a controversy over sexual assault allegations against its former chief executive.

Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty wrote to the regulator on Friday, requesting it to “immediately establish an independent inquiry” into the charity.

Ms Doherty also wrote to Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys “seeking the immediate reinstatement” of Garda vetting for people working or volunteering with homeless charities.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris confirmed on Friday that vetting policy around those working with homeless people would be reviewed.

Anthony Flynn, the former chief executive of ICHH who died last month, had been under investigation by gardaí in relation to two alleged sexual assaults. In recent weeks, a number of other men have claimed they had also been sexually assaulted.

‘Beyond remit’

Mr Flynn was a founder of the charity, which ran outreach programmes working with homeless people in Dublin’s north inner city. He was also an Independent councillor on Dublin City Council.

An internal report by the former chair of the charity, David Hall, said Mr Flynn is alleged to have sexually assaulted men for whom he had secured accommodation.

In a statement, the Charities Regulator said issues related to safeguarding were “beyond the remit” of the regulator. It said it was aware ICHH had appointed a barrister, Remy Farrell SC, to conduct a review into the controversy.

The regulator said it had met the board of ICHH, which was providing updates on the planned appointment of new directors. Three people who had been nominated for board positions, including Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, withdrew their names from consideration this week.

Mr Hall said he believed “serious questions arise in relation to actions not having been taken by the regulator” in the case of ICHH.

Speaking to The Irish Times, he said there needed to be a “broad review” of the regulator’s powers, if it was prevented from acting in cases such as this.

Mr Flynn was suspended from his position shortly before his death for not disclosing that he was being investigated by the Garda for sexual assault.

Vetted

Charity workers who assist homeless people do not typically have to be Garda vetted. Speaking on Friday, the commissioner said that “in light of this incident, we will obviously have to review that”.

Mr Harris said vetting is an intrusive process, meaning “there is strict criteria on who can be vetted and who is not vetted”.

But homeless people can be regarded as “particularly vulnerable”, he said.

“That may be an area that needs resolution. Certainly we’re looking into that.”

Mr Harris said the death of the chief suspect means the sexual assault cases are not going to go to court. However, a file will still be prepared “so that the matter is properly reported. And also so that we can ensure the learnings in respect of vetting. And also for victims, so we can point them towards support services”.