Department discusses replacing Console services

Call for national strategy to oversee charities sector after series of controversies

Discussions are continuing this weekend at the Department of Health to find a home for staff and services provided up to now by the defunct and discredited Console charity.

They follow a decision to shut down the suicide prevention charity. It is due to run out of funds next week and is expected to cease operations at that point.

Amid the controversy, there has been a call for "a national strategy for the community, voluntary and charitable sector". Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy at the Wheel, which represent charities, said the sector "cannot continue to lurch from controversy to controversy".

It was “the people and communities supported by charities that suffer every time a controversy occurs”, he added. “We must end this cycle.”


It emerged yesterday that two bank accounts connected to Console UK in London have been frozen. The UK Charities Commission secured an order to freeze the accounts, one with £43,700 and one which is empty, and began an investigation into Console UK. The Department of Foreign Affairs, which paid Console UK €150,000 over three years, has sent auditors to examine its books.

Figures not reflected

The UK accounts for Console "do not give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the company", the HSE draft internal audit found; "payments relating to Console UK of €141,392 made by Console Ireland are not reflected in these accounts". Similarly, it found "there is no reference to Console UK in the accounts of Console Ireland".

It found Console Ireland was described “as a related party and a sister charity in Console UK’s AFS [annual financial statement] but not in Console Ireland’s audited accounts”.

On May 2nd, 2012, the directors of Console established Console Suicide Prevention Ltd (known as Console UK). It was registered with the UK Charity Commission on July 29th, 2013, with directors/trustees Patricia Kelly, company secretary Paul Kelly and their son Tim Kelly, who was appointed head of Console UK on July 23rd, 2012. He reported to his father Paul Kelly as chief executive of Console Ireland (while also a director and trustee of Console UK).

Tim Kelly was on permanent contract at a salary of £31,308 paid by Console Ireland at £600 a week. His salary was “not reflected in Console UK’s accounts”.

The HSE audit established that, of the €141,392 payments in Console Ireland’s accounts relating to Console UK and for the three years 2012 to 2014, “none” was reflected in Console UK’s accounts.

Console Ireland’s spending relating to Console UK was some €17,000 in 2012, some €83,500 in 2013 and some €40,500 in 2014. It found Console UK’s total income to the year ending May 31st, 2014, was £47,154 (of which donations made up some £46,500).

Its spending for that year was £27,490, the largest element of which was £16,895 paid to Console Ireland “for management, administration and consultancy services”.

Included were “lecture fees and expenses” which came to just over £2,000. The remaining costs related to rent, phones, printing, postage, travelling etc.

Annual repayment

Asked by HSE auditors about this, Console responded last December that “given the pace at which services in the UK evolved and the necessity to establish operations in that jurisdiction for the reasons outlined, it was decided that Console Ireland would fund the establishment of Console UK and that Console UK would repay an annual sum of €20,000 per year”.

It continued: “Console fully accepts that the funding of Console UK by Console Ireland was not treated adequately . . . Console over-relied on its external accountants to manage and advise on the nature of this relationship without having ensured there was the necessary oversight in place.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times