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REVEALED: The charities with CEOs still earning more than €100,000
Analysis of’s survey of 40 charitable organisations.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Watford v Derby County - Vicarage Road Jonathan Brady / PA Jonathan Brady / PA / PA

A NUMBER OF Irish charity bosses are still earning well in excess of €100,000 a year, despite a series of controversies over executive pay in recent years, can reveal.

Our survey of some of Ireland’s leading charities shows a significant variety in the levels of CEO pay, with some bosses taking no salary or benefits whatsoever and others earning almost €150,000 a year.

An analysis of the figures also reveals a wide range in senior management pay and fundraising efficiency, as well as a tight network of connections among charity executives.

We sent a questionnaire to 40 charities, requesting figures on executive pay and perks, fundraising costs, and spending on PR and administration, among other information.

One charity refused to answer any questions, one failed to answer any questions, two did not respond at all, two filled out the questionnaire but refused to reveal CEO salaries, and two charities provided salary ranges but not a specific number. (*Details can be found at the end of the article).

A spokesperson for Irish Charities for Tax Reform and Fundraising Ireland told us it strongly advises members to hold financial reporting to the highest standards, in order to “promote public confidence”.

However, they added: “Salary levels must be set at a sufficient level to guarantee that the highest standards are applied in governance, financial reporting and service delivery.”

With that in mind, here are the 10 highest and lowest-paid charity CEOs in Ireland, based on responses to our survey.

CEO pay and benefits

1. Fionnuala O’Donovan, Enable Ireland

FOD_Fotor Enable Ireland Enable Ireland CEO Fionnuala O'Donovan Enable Ireland

  • €145,679 salary
  • 7% employer contribution to pension
  • Oversees staff of 1,018 and revenue (all income before spending) of €46,215,554 in 2014
  • Charity provides education, respite and other services to 5,000 children and adults with disabilities in 40 centres across Ireland
  • Charity received almost €38 million from the HSE to provide services in 2014
  • Formerly worked at the National Council for the Blind, has been CEO of Enable Ireland for more than a decade
  • On the board of the Not-for-Profit Business Association; formerly on the board of the Cope Foundation and Children Direct

2. Dee Ahearn, Barretstown


  • €142,800 salary
  • €7,500 car allowance and vouched expenses
  • Oversees staff of 47 and revenue of €4,839,184 in 2014
  • Charity provides residential activity camp at Barretstown Castle, Co Kildare, and hospital outreach to children with cancer and other serious illnesses, serving 5,228 campers in 2015
  • Charity received €151,000 from HSE for services in 2014
  • CEO since 2010. Former chairperson of Make-A-Wish. Worked in PR and marketing for property developer Johnny Ronan’s Treasury Holdings, and US commercial real estate company CBRE.

3. Mo Flynn, Rehab

moflynn Rehab Rehab CEO Mo Flynn. Rehab

  • €140,000 salary
  • Use of a mid-sized, leased car
  • 6-10% employer contribution to pension
  • Oversees staff of 3,534 and revenue of €159,180,000 in 2014
  • Charity provides health, social care, education and job training to 30,000 persons with disabilities in Ireland, Poland and the UK
  • In 2014, charity received: €59.6 million from the HSE; €26.8 million from education training boards; €4.6 million from other departments and state agencies, as well as funding from the UK government.
  • Former CEO of Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross; president of the Irish Gerontological Society; on the board of CORU (the health and social care professionals regulator); formerly on the boards of HIQA and the Carers’ Association.
  • CEO since 2015. Took over from Angela Kerins after the scandal surrounding executive salaries and “top-ups” in 2014.
  • Four Rehab employees were paid €140,000-€170,000 in 2014.

4. Kathleen McLoughlin, Irish Wheelchair Association

  • €136,496 salary
  • Seconded from Department of Education as a Principal Officer, but paid at top end of Assistant Secretary pay scale
  • Keeps civil service pension, Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) pension paid on difference between Principal Officer and Assistant Secretary salaries
  • €15,000 annual car allowance and fuel card
  • IWA makes an unspecified contribution to McLoughlin’s health insurance
  • Oversees 2,167 staff and revenue of €52,338,327 in 2014
  • Charity provides two million hours a year of assisted living, respite, youth and sports services to 20,000 persons with disabilities.
  • In 2014, charity received €39.4 million from the HSE and €6 million from the Department of Social Protection
  • Civil servant seconded to the IWA a decade ago. On the board of the Not-for-Profit Business Association.

5. John McCormack, Irish Cancer Society

90287848 Irish Cancer Society CEO John McCormack

  • €135,000 salary
  • 16% employer contribution to pension
  • Company car – 2012 Toyota Avensis, €3,000 a year health insurance
  • Oversees 151 staff, revenue of €20,600,000 in 2014
  • Charity provides free cancer services, including palliative care, voluntary drivers, support and counselling to thousands each year, as well as €3 million in grants for cancer-related research
  • In 2014, charity received €420,000 in state grants
  • CEO of the Irish Cancer Society for almost three decades, since 1989.
  • On the board of Alcohol Action Ireland and Medical Research Charities. Formerly on the board of ASH Ireland (Action on Smoking and Health) and the Tobacco Free Research Institute.
  • Salary was €145,000 until January 2016, when McCormack took a €10,000 cut in response to the controversy over the decision to cut the society’s hardship fund.

6. Barry Dempsey, Irish Heart Foundation

00156800 Barry Dempsey, Irish Heart Foundation CEO

  • €134,000 salary
  • Oversees 47 staff, revenue of €5,075,093 in 2014

7. Senan Mullins, the Care Trust

  • €119,950 salary
  • Oversees 18 staff, revenue of €5,618,624 in 2014

8. Ashley Balbirnie, Focus Ireland

  • €115,000 salary
  • Oversees 327 staff, revenue of €19,596,418 in 2014

9. Fergus Finlay, Barnardos

90125454 Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay

  • €114,651 salary
  • Oversees 365 staff, revenue of €22,040,000 in 2014

10. Ray Jordan, Gorta-Self Help Africa

  • €112,750 salary
  • Oversees 98 staff, revenue of €16,493,202

The four other charity bosses earning more than €100,000 were:

  • Chris White (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) – €112,000
  • Colette Kelleher (Alzheimer Society) – €110,000
  • Mary Moorehead (Mater Foundation) – €107,000
  • Padraig Mallon (Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind) – €103,572

And here are the lowest-paid charity CEOs in our survey:

1. Adi Roche, Chernobyl Children International

Chernobyl Children International event launch Julien Behal / PA Chernobyl Children International CEO Adi Roche Julien Behal / PA / PA

  • No salary, no benefits, no pension, no perks
  • Oversees 10 staff, revenue of €2,335,519 in 2014
  • Charity provides healthcare and humanitarian aid to children in regions affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (Belarus, Ukraine, parts of Russia), and arranges annual holidays to Irish homes for the children.
  • Received 77% of its revenue from public donations in 2014.

2. Maureen Forrest, Hope Foundation

  • No salary, no benefits, no pension, no perks
  • Oversees 13 staff and revenue of €1,527,771 in 2014
  • Charity provides funding and support to 60 Indian NGOs for health, nutrition, child protection and education programmes, principally in Calcutta
  • Founded the Hope Foundation in 1999, after working with GOAL in Somalia and Ethiopia during the famines in the 1980s.

3. Bríd Leahy, Manager of ASH Ireland (Action on Smoking and Health)

  • €36,000 salary
  • Only staff member, oversees revenue of €126,264 in 2014
  • An anti-tobacco advocacy and research group.

4. Jacinta Hastings, Bodywhys

  • €57,711 salary
  • Oversees five staff and revenue of €301,331 in 2014
  • The renamed Eating Disorders Association of Ireland provides support, services and information to people affected by eating disorders
  • Has a service agreement with the HSE, which pays all six employees’ salaries, a total of €196,211 in 2014
  • On the board of Mental Health Reform, and a former senior executive at Mental Health Ireland, until becoming CEO of Bodywhys in 2007.

5. Seán Moynihan, ALONE

90408396 ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan, launching the charity's General Election advocacy campaign.

  • €72,000 salary
  • €350 VHI
  • Oversees 10 staff and revenue of €1,281,455 in 2014
  • Charity provides housing, support, befriending to hundreds of older people every week
  • Charity received €203,825 in state grants in 2014.
  • Spent seven years as director of services at Simon, before becoming CEO of ALONE in 2008.

6. Pauline McKeown, Coolmine Therapeutic Community

  • €75,000 salary
  • Oversees 51 staff and revenue of €3,079,347 in 2014.

7. Pat Clarke, Down Syndrome Ireland

  • €81,000 salary
  • Oversees 39 staff and revenue of €3,192,627 in 2014.

8. Kerry Anthony, Depaul Ireland

kerryanthony Depaul Ireland Depaul Ireland CEO Kerry Anthony Depaul Ireland

  • €82,831 salary
  • In the Republic of Ireland, oversees 212 staff and revenue of €9,184,802. Including Northern Ireland, she oversees a total of 325 staff and revenue of €12,923,195 (based on Sterling exchange rate at 31 December 2014).

9. Andrew Kelly, ISPCA

  • €85,000 salary
  • Oversees 46 staff and revenue of €2,527,154.

10. Patrick Quinn, Head of National Office, Simon

  • €85,000 salary
  • Oversees six staff at the Simon Community’s head office, and revenue of €731,347 in 2014.
  • Simon is a network of regional communities. CEO of the Dublin Simon Community, Sam McGuinness, has a salary of €93,338.

Executive pay

Along with CEO salaries and benefits, pay at senior levels in Irish charities has raised concerns over the past few years.

Firstly, to put things in context, here are the 10 charities with the highest and lowest pay bills. These figures include salaries and pensions for all employees.


In terms of executive pay, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services comes out on top, with its seven-member senior management team earning a total of €1,622,000 in wages and pensions in 2014 – an average of €231,714 each.

In declining to provide salary ranges or specify CEO Paul Gilligan’s pay package, a spokesperson for St Patrick’s told us:

We operate in a highly competitive staffing environment and our salaries are set to enable us attract and retain the highest quality staff.
The information requested is commercially sensitive. In addition the Data Protection Acts…do not allow us to reveal staff member’s salaries under the context in which they have been requested.

Salaries can legally be revealed, however, if an employee gives their consent. asked whether Gilligan had refused to give consent for his salary to be disclosed, but we did not receive a response.

St Patrick’s was one of two charities (Bon Secours was the other) which failed to break down the salaries of employees earning more than €70,000, in bands of €10,000, a convention which is regarded as best practice for charities.

So in calculating who paid the most to their highest-salaried staff, we have to exclude St Patrick’s and Bon Secours.


As you can see, the Rehab Group, which has 3,535 employees (the most of any charity in the survey) paid out €6.2 million in salaries alone to those on more than €70,000 a year, in 2014.

However, there were also 70 employees paid above that level (the highest of any charity), so Rehab’s average salary above €70,000 falls below the €90,001 earned by the highest-paid staff at St Michael’s House.

It’s important to note that these are median figures, based on salary ranges provided by charities in response to our survey, or in their most recent annual reports.

So the actual salary costs and averages could be as high or low as €6.6 million or €5.9 million in total in the case of Rehab, and €84,600 or €94,400 on average, in the case of St Michael’s House.

Some charities are bigger than others, and so pay more people above €70,000.

So to make sure we’re being fair, we’ve adjusted for the size of the charities, and calculated salaries above €70,000 as a proportion of all salaries, and all staff, for the five biggest spenders.


As you can see, Enable Ireland devotes the biggest chunk of its overall salary bill to those on more than €70,000 – paying a median figure of €3.4 million (out of €29.8 million) to 41 employees (out of 647).

Out of all 40 charities we surveyed, these are the ones with the highest proportion of employees paid above €70,000.

  1. The Care Trust: 26.3% (five out of 19 employees)
  2. Irish Heart Foundation: 8.3% (four out of 48 employees)
  3. Gorta-Self Help Africa: 8% (eight out of 99 employees)
  4. Irish Cancer Society: 7.9% (12 out of 152 employees)
  5. GOAL: 6.6% (13 out of 198 employees)

There were some instances of smaller organisations where only one employee was paid above €70,000, but amid a staff of less than 15, this gave a skewed picture of executive pay in those charities, so we excluded them from the list above.


shutterstock_120460033-2-390x285 (1) Shutterstock Shutterstock

For charities without Section 38 and Section 39 service agreements with the HSE, or without state grants, fundraising can be essential to their survival.

Amid recession and a series of scandals in recent years, it has been falling, pretty much across the board.

The Wheel, a support organisation representing 1,250 charities, told us that 39% of groups that accept money from the public had seen a drop in donations in the last year, and 18% had made at least some staff redundant.

So charities (particularly smaller ones) are forced to be even more efficient and strategic than usual in soliciting contributions from the Irish public.

Each organisation has unique circumstances, but we can get some sense of how cost-effective a charity is in using its resources to acquire more resources.

We’ve calculated return on investment (money raised – money spent as a factor of money spent), and here are the most effective fundraisers we surveyed, based on 2014 figures, the most recent available.

  1. Chernobyl Children International: Spent €29,252, took in €2,335,519. ROI: 78.8. The charity got €167,080 worth of free media, PR and advertising in 2014
  2. Down Syndrome Ireland: Spent €191,725, took in €2,374,629. ROI: 11.4
  3. Simon: Spent €57,230, took in €580,063. ROI: 9.1
  4. Bóthar: Spent €534,352, took in €5,089,753. ROI: 8.5
  5. The Peter McVerry Trust: Spent €410,417, took in €3,814,046. ROI: 6.7

Executive Network


Another feature of Irish charities to emerge from our analysis was the close network of connections between them.

Based on publicly available work histories and records from the Companies Registration Office, we found that just 10 out of 40 charity CEOs had not previously served on the board of another charity, or held a senior position in one.

And of the 30 CEOs with previous charity experience as directors or CEOs, 10 of them had that experience with at least one of the other groups in our survey.

Out of the 40 charities we surveyed, 17 had a connection with another inside that network, via their CEO.

You can see what that web of executive connections looks like, in the chart above.

*Survey notes:

  • Bon Secours Health System – Ireland’s largest private hospital group and a registered charity – refused to answer any questions.
  • The Cope Foundation and Spinal Injuries Ireland did not respond, but we were able to glean some information from their most recent annual reports.
  • St Michael’s House did not fill out the questionnaire, but cited documents which provided some information. They did not disclose the salary of acting CEO David Dunne.
  • Two charities filled out the questionnaire but declined to provide the CEO’s salary – Cheeverstown House and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, the country’s largest private mental health provider and a registered charity.
  • Cork-based charity Wellsprings, which provides support for young women transitioning out of state care, told us that their manager Audrey Jeffery is paid under €70,000, but declined to give a specific number.
  • Make-A-Wish told us that CEO Susan O’Dwyer is on a salary of €90,000-€100,000, but declined to give a specific number.

Read: Nonprofits are showing their books to reassure donors>

Read: Angry parents take to Liveline after Irish Cancer Society cuts off hardship fund>

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