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'My blood was boiling' - Restaurateur Derry Clarke among those to react to Console revelations

Several people have reacted with anger and dismay at the suicide charity malpractices.

PEOPLE WHO SUPPORTED and worked for Console have spoken of their shock at revelations the charity founder Paul Kelly and two family members spent half a million euro on personal expenses.

RTÉ Prime Time Investigates revealed massive irregularities in the charity’s finances in relation to cash receipting, expense claims and financial accounts.

A HSE audit of the charity found that half a million euro was spent on foreign trips, designer clothes, eating out and other expenses between 2012 and 2014 – while another half a million was spent on salaries and cars for Paul Kelly and his wife Patricia Kelly.

file-photo-concerns-have-been-raised-about-the-governance-and-financial-management-of-suicide-prevention-charity-console-a-report-by-rte-investigates-broken-trust-due-to-air-tonight-will-reveal-irr-2-390x285 Console founder Paul Kelly. Source: Mark Stedman/Rolling News

Paul, Patricia and their son Tim Kelly used eleven credit cards over the three year period.

Restaurateur Derry Clarke, whose teenage son died by suicide in 2013, told RTÉ’S Today With Sean O’Rourke he was disgusted at the revelations.

“I feel, not just for myself, but for thousands of people across Ireland who have spent the last three years fundraising for Console and doing it in trust,” he said.

Clarke said that when he read about the foreign trips the Kelly family took: “My blood was boiling actually, it really was.”

In January a generous benefactor gave me a cheque for €26,000 which I gave directly to Console. It really makes me sick.
To face these people over the past two years who have fundraised – it’s difficult.

Clarke said he only ever met Paul Kelly at functions and “didn’t know what car he drove or where he lived”.

I had no idea and that makes me annoyed with myself. Normally when you’re giving a lot of money to someone you check it out, where’s it going to, what’s it being spent on…It’s a lesson learned the hard way.

Clarke said the work Console does is “amazing” and needs to continue.

“If we could separate what they do, day to day services from one person’s actions, that would be great,” he said.

Royalties

Former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird, who pledged to give the royalties from his book on marriage equality, A Day in May, to Console said he would not be doing so now.

11/5/2016. Taoiseach Launches Charlie Birds Equali Charlie Bird with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at his book launch in May. Source: Eamonn Farrell

“It’s absolutely awful. It’s so distressing to hear what is coming out,” he told Today FM’s Anton Savage Show.

Bird said a decision was made last week not to give the charity any money in light of the initial revelations about irregularities.

“In light of what happened…certainly we’re not going to take any decisions to give any money to Console at the moment,” he said.

Bird said the money would go to other suicide awareness awareness charities instead.

Therapist payments

Meanwhile a therapist with Console in Galway, Marie, told RTÉ’s Liveline that Paul Kelly still owes her €2,500. She said therapist payments were regularly late and that she was left waiting for three months at the start of the year.

Marie said she was “absolutely astounded” at the malpractice revelations.

“We were completely left in the dark. We are absolutely astounded and gutted at what’s happened. I feel for my clients and I feel for anyone who did great work.

I just want to make it clear that therapists do great work and knew nothing about it.

Marie said payments to therapists were often “sloppy”.

“We were due a cheque at Christmas and we never got paid until Good Friday, three months later,” she said.

When I got the cheque it didn’t even come to my address, but to another therapist’s address. There was something very sloppy about the payments. Sometimes I would have to call about the payment and it wasn’t received very well.

Marie said therapists charge Console €37.50 for every counselling session, while clients were asked to give anything they could afford up to €30. That money went “straight to Paul Kelly”, she said.

Marie said she would continue to see all of her clients with Console, regardless of their ability to pay.

“It’s my clients I feel very, very sorry for,” she said.

Read: Here’s what almost half a million euro from 11 Console credit cards was spent on

Read: ‘Charity regulator should have been in Console’s offices long ago’

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