Ex-Console chief asked to pay back €150,000 worth of grants

David Hall ‘pleasantly surprised’ at demand for repayment of funds

Irish charity Console is facing a criminal investigation after gross mismanagement and lavish expenses.

 

Former interim CEO of Console, David Hall, has said he is “pleasantly surprised” by the Government’s demand for the repayment of €150,000 from the charity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued letters to Paul and Patricia Kelly, who were involved at senior management level of the charity.

They have been asked to repay in full the Emigrant Support Programme grants given to Console in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They total €150,889 over the three years. The ESP grants are given to organisations providing support and advice services to Irish emigrants abroad.

In June 2016, it emerged that the founder of the suicide prevention charity Paul Kelly, his wife, and son had run up credit card bills of almost €500,000 on items such as groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips. The charity eventually closed.

Mr Hall told Newstalk Breakfast that he welcomed any action that will see the return of the funds, especially in view of the demands on charities.

“It is reassuring to see the Department coming forward on this, trying to get money back.”

He said he hoped this would reassure the public, as there had been breach of public trust and a drop in donations to charities. Inadequate funding from the HSE had led to charities such as Console to seek public donations. It was not surprising what had happened at Console given the lack of control and oversight, he said.

“There will always be someone trying something, no matter where they are. Good people doing good work have nothing to fear. There will always be messers. If anyone has any concerns they should report them to the Charities Regulator,” Mr Hall added.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Department confirms that following the conclusion of an audit by the Department’s Evaluation and Audit Unit, repayment of these grants was requested.

“There is an investigation ongoing by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement into issues surrounding the liquidation of Console, and as such there will be no further comment from the Department on this matter.”

Console was liquidated last year with debts of around €300,000.