RTÉ programme says Console ‘breached rules’ on director pay

€215,000 payment to Paul Kelly not included in altered accounts given to funders

Paul Kelly, the founder of suicide prevention charity Console, received director payments totalling €215,000 between 2010 and 2012 in an apparent breach of company law and Revenue regulations, a report by the RTÉ investigations unit has alleged.

The charity’s London operation is the subject of an audit by the Department of Foreign Affairs and its current application for funding from the department has been put on hold, according to the report.

The director payments were clearly stated in the audited accounts of the charity, but were not listed in altered versions of the accounts submitted to funders. Six different sets of accounts for 2012 are in existence, it is claimed.

Mr Kelly said the accounts provided to funders were “draft accounts” and added he fully denied “any assertion of intentional wrongdoing on the part of Console, the CEO and/or directors”.


Concerns about Console’s governance, including its accounting, go back as far as 2006, according to the programme. In 2009, an official from the National Office of Suicide Prevention wrote that the accounts were “not accurate” and were not signed off by the chairman of the board.

At one stage, the HSE threatened to suspend funding, but in later years it increased rapidly. The HSE has funded Console to the tune of €3.4 million between 2006 and 2014. HSE national director for mental health Anne O’Connor said funding increased in 2013 to support a suicide prevention helpline which was in danger of collapsing.

A HSE audit of Console began in April 2015 and a 229-page final draft with 89 recommendations has been completed. Ms O’Connor said the HSE was working with Console in respect of these findings.

Mr Kelly has served as director, chairman and chief executive of Console at various times, contrary to best practice, according to the programme. It says that up until 2014, when three new directors were appointed, the Console board was made up exclusively of family members. Family boards are allowed in the private sector, but not in charities, according to Revenue rules which require a minimum of three directors who are not related to each other.

Mr Kelly told the programme family members were initially appointed because it was a small organisation and they were trusted by it.

Previous accounts submitted to the Companies Registration Office show Mr Kelly and his wife Patricia Kelly as directors of Console, along with another family member. Documents submitted to funding agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs list Ms Kelly under her maiden name Patricia Dowling. Mr Kelly said his wife used her maiden name "for personal reasons".

Many of the people listed by Console as board members when applying for funding from State organisations were never board members, according to the programme. In one list submitted to the HSE in 2009, all six people listed as being on the board of the charity say they were not members.

One of them, former senator Jillian van Turnhout, whose name was misspelled on the application, said she was “stunned” that her name was used. “I have had no interaction with Console through my lifetime, the height of my interaction has been to tweet their helpline number,” she said.

Mr Kelly said these names were a "list of new potential board members". Andrew Garvey was listed in Console accounts for two years as chairman. However, Mr Garvey, a volunteer who chaired some meetings, says he never had that role.

The programme delves into Mr Kelly’s history before he set up Console. In 1983, he pretended to be a doctor and got a job at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital on Baggot Street, it says. He worked there for three weeks as a doctor until gardaí were alerted. He subsequently admitted to the offence in Dublin District Court on June 17th, 1983, and was given the benefit of the Probation Act.

The programme says that 30 years ago, he founded a counselling charity, Christian Development Services, which sent out lists of trustees to attract funding that included people who were not in fact trustees.

One list claimed then minister for labour Bertie Ahern was a trustee. In a 1990 interview Mr Ahern said that, after he attended a meeting of the organisation, business people were continually ringing his office for several months saying they believed he was a trustee."And I was anxious and in any case I don't allow any organisation to use my name to collect money," Mr Ahern said.

At this time, Mr Kelly was described in trustee lists variously as Father and Brother Paul Kelly, Order of San Damiano and the Rev Paul Kelly, Servants of the Poor. In response, Mr Kelly told RTÉ he was at the time involved in founding a new religious congregation to be known as the Order of San Damiano and then the Servants of the Poor.

He said he was "entitled to refer to himself as a brother and reverend at the relevant times". He also said he was ordained on December 10th, 1988, which is said to be a reference to his ordination into the Order of the Mother of God by self-styled bishop Michael Cox.

Among those who donated money to Christian Development Services were businessman Jim Flavin of DCC and Seán FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish Bank.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times