Irish charity sector is being drained by duplication

Agencies are funded mainly by the State, but expanding payrolls are burning up that money

The charities sector in Ireland is a pretty crowded space. There is also lots of duplication, which means it is quite territorial.

It can make for intense competition when pursuing donations whether from private or State sources. And the State is the mother of all funders where Irish charities are concerned.

A good example of proliferation in a specific area of service where charities are concerned has to do with suicide prevention/bereavement.

In all there are 48 separate agencies supplying services in this area, with 13 doing so exclusively.


The largest by turnover is at Pieta House, founded by Senator Joan Freeman, which had a reported total income of €5.97 million in 2015. Six of its staff are on over €70,000 with two earning over €85,000.

It reflects another feature of Ireland’s charities, particularly the larger ones; key staff are well-looked after.

Total benefits received by the eight key management personnel at Pieta House in 2015, not including employer pension contributions, was €585,226. It received €895,228 in funding from State sources.

Other charities operating in this sphere are the Suicide Research Foundation, Samaritans Ireland, Fight Against Suicide Limited, Reach Out Ireland Limited, Irish Association of Suicidology, Sosad Ireland Limited, Galway East Life Support Limited, and It's Good To Talk Counselling Psychotherapy Support Services Limited. In the case of Kinsale Youth Support Services Limited, the HSE pays €30,000 for one member of staff. All others involved are unpaid.

Tax relief

Overall, there are 18,539 non-profit organisations in Ireland, including non-government, non-commercial organisations that file regulatory returns with the Companies Office, the Charities Regulator, the Revenue Commissioners, the

Housing Agency

and/or the Department of Education.

The Revenue Commissioners recognise 8,194 as charities for tax-relief purposes and, to date, 12,500 are registered with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

Included too are, 3,600 schools, the churches, religious congregations, and trusts.

According to their financial statements, 7,651 Irish nonprofits on the (non-governmental) Benefacts database had an aggregate income of more than €7.1 billion in 2014, of which €3.5 billion came from the State.

Involved are 108,000 employees.

Another instance of the duplication which besets this sector was evident last week when UN special envoy for climate and El Niño Mary Robinson visited Ethiopia to highlight the drought there where over 10 million people are at risk.

She was accompanied by the chief executives of Ireland's three largest aid agencies – Concern Worldwide (Dominic MacSorley), Trócaire (Éamonn Meehan) and Goal (Barry Andrews).

Concern received €24.6 million from the Government, through Irish Aid, in 2015. It has 32 staff on over €60,000 a year, with four on €90,000-plus. Chief executive Dominic MacSorley is on €99,000 plus a 9 per cent contribution to his defined contribution pension.

Remuneration, including pension contributions, paid to its 10-member executive management team in 2015 came to €874,631

The Government is Trócaire’s single largest donor and, according to its accounts for the year ended February 29th, 2016, it received €21 million from Irish Aid.

It has 18 staff who earn more than €60,000, two of whom are on more than €90,000. Chief executive Éamonn Meehan is on €118,750, with a car valued at €7,689.

Remuneration, including pension contributions, of €725,915, was paid to its seven-member executive leadership team during the year.

Goal received €17.3 million from the Government, through Irish Aid, in 2014 (the last year for which its annual accounts are available).

Of its staff, 13 were on over €70,000 a year with two on over €90,000.

Chief executive Barry Andrews was on €95,000 plus €20,000 pension contributions. Costs associated with Goal's governance in 2014, including remuneration of staff, came to €602,000.

But the area where most people would have come across this proliferation phenomenon among charities in Ireland has to do with homelessness, not least in Dublin.

In 2014 staff costs at the four main homeless agencies in the city absorbed all funds, more in instances, granted them by the State for the provision of homelessness services.

Dublin Simon, the Peter McVerry Trust, Depaul Ireland and Focus Ireland received a total of €33.6 million in grants from State agencies in 2014, but spent €35.8 million on staff costs for on the 875 people they employed in 2014 (the last year for which complete figures are available for all).

In Dublin there are eight organisations involved with the homeless, Dublin Simon, the Peter McVerry Trust, Depaul Ireland, Focus Ireland, Novas, the Salvation Army, Crosscare, and the YMCA.

Each has its own management team, its own chief executive/directors, policy teams, buildings managers, health and counselling teams, and training programmes.

The Irish Times has looked at figures for the four major homeless agencies in the city, Dublin Simon, the Peter McVerry Trust, Depaul Ireland and Focus Ireland.

In 2014, Dublin Simon’s total income was €12,519,761. It received €6,194,218 from the State. Its “average number of employees” was 188 at a total cost of €7,420,022, including wages and salaries, social security and pension.

Its chief executive, Sam McGuinness, was on a salary of €93,338 a year, with five employees altogether on over €70,000 per annum. In 2014, Dublin Simon also spent €84,980 on “motor vehicles”.

The Peter McVerry Trust had a total income of €10,656,737 in 2014, of which €6,842,691 came from the State. It employed 146 employees in 2014 at a cost of just under €8.1 million.

Executive salaries

Chief executive

Pat Doyle

is paid €96,211 (€98,382 since June 2016), the same level as director regional health office).

The trust pays a 16 per cent employer contribution to the chief executive’s defined-contribution pension scheme.The income of all senior employees is in line with HSE pay levels.

The Depaul Ireland homeless agency had 213 employees in 2014. They cost it €6,469,677. Almost all its €9,184,802 income for 2014 came from State agencies.

Four employees there earned over €60,000 each in 2014, with chief executive Kerry Anthony on between €80,000 and €90,000.

Earlier this year Depaul advertised for a director of fundraising and communications, offering a salary of €70,000 “circa”, and for a senior HR manager, at a salary of €55,000.

This coincided with a sustained appeals campaign for donations.

Focus Ireland had an average of 328 employees in 2014 at a cost of €13.82 million, including pensions and social insurance costs. In 2014, State agencies granted it €11.38 million.

Its chief executive, Ashley Balbirnie, was paid a salary of €115,000 plus approximately €5,000 in medical insurance (and an employer pension contribution). That amounted to a total of over €120,000.

In addition, another staff member received over €100,000, while four more received between €80,000 and €90,000 each.

When it comes to fundraising, all homeless agencies focus intensively and competitively on the weeks leading to Christmas.

This can involve extensive advertising outdoors as well as in print and broadcast media.

This was noticeable especially in the lead-up to Christmas 2014 following the death of Jonathan Corrie in a doorway on Molesworth Street, across from Leinster House, on December 1st that year.

It led to a public outcry about homelessness and Government failures in the area.

Agency protests

The death of Mr Corrie was revisited in the lead-up to Christmas last December, on the first anniversary of his death, when further protests took place at the spot where he died, involving homeless agencies, activists and politicians.

In the Dáil on December 1st last, TD Barry Cowen said that "a year on [from Jonathan Corrie's death] the commitments to end homelessness or go a long way towards it, unfortunately, have not been realised.

“That is not just my opinion or that of various opposition members; it is also coming from those at the coalface. Others have referred to the commentary by stakeholders earlier today on Mr Corrie’s anniversary, including the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland, Simon and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.”

The problem with all of this hue and cry was that homelessness did not cause the death of Jonathan Corrie, which was so shamlessly exploited by so many for their own ends.

In a scantily reported hearing last month (June 20th), Dr Christian Gulmann, a pathologist at the Dublin City Morgue, said there was no evidence of hypothermia in the case and that Mr Corrie's death was caused by a multidrug overdose.

This article was amended on June 12th. Dominic McSorley has a defined contribution pension, not a defined benefit pension as originally reported.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times