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Gardaí investigate support group's spend on gifts, angel healing and dog kennels

Positive Action received €2.3 million in tax payer funding between 2009 and 2013.

Image: Support via Shutterstock

Updated 22.55pm

GARDAÍ ARE INVESTIGATING allegations surrounding the use of HSE funds by a group set up to support women with Hepatitis C.

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee is also set to investigate the spend, and is seeking information from the HSE within the next week before deciding how to proceed.

However, a former director of the group said that the since-closed Positive Action “gave members solace”.

RTÉ’s Ingrid Miley revealed that Positive Action spent extravagant amounts on travel, conferences, food and courses.

The report says that an internal audit shows that Positive Action spent:

  • €19,450 on supermarket bills
  • €104,000 on travel to conferences
  • €100,000 on therapies including angel healing and card readings
  • €550 on a Dancing the Spiral course
  • €86,781 on dining
  • €2,223 on gifts
  • €202 on a courier to transport dry cleaning
  • €185 on dog kennels

‘Alarm among the taxpayers’

The group, founded in 1994 in response to a scandal over contaminated blood products, had received €2.3 million in taxpayer money between 2009 and 2013.

The directors of the support group said they were disappointed with the tone of the auditors’ report.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Independent TD Shane Ross, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee,  called the revelations ‘alarming’, and said that questions had to raised as to why the HSE did not pull funding from Positive Action sooner.

“This is a mass of organisations, particularly in the health sector, that cause alarm among the taxpayers.”

Ross said that once the Public Accounts Committee starts unravelling the story, they will find more information on other organisations. At its meeting this morning, the PAC agreed to seek more information on the spending by Positive Action from the HSE.

‘Primarily very sad’

Christine Bruton, a former director of Positive Action says that the since wound-up group is needed now “more than ever”.

She said that the women affected by Hepatitis were “hurting” and sicker now. She said that while she disagreed with spending money on gifts and alcohol, the group gave members “solace”.

Bruton said that she was “primarily very sad”.

“Positive Action was set up to support women who were poisoned by the State.

“We got some justice and had 731 members last July, some who had died, some who are very ill, some who had liver transplants.”

She added that the HSE funded the group in latter years and knew of the spending.

“Therapies are approved because, medically, there’s not a whole lot that can be done for these women.”

She says that trips away were merely subsidised, not completely covered.

Additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell. Originally published 11.09am

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