Former Console chief Paul Kelly asked to return People of the Year award

Former Console chief Paul Kelly asked to return People of the Year award

The People of the Year committee has written to embattled former Console head Paul Kelly demanding he return his award as calls grow for the Government to urgently grant the charity regulator investigative powers, writes Claire O'Sullivan, Irish Examiner Reporter.

Rehab Group, who run the People of the Year Awards, want the gong back “ in order to protect the standing and integrity of the awards”.

It was given to the Console CEO in 2014 for “challenging the perceptions of suicide and having the resolve to create the first dedicated suicide prevention and support services in Ireland”.

“The value and esteem of the awards is based on the high regard that the people of Ireland have for the award recipients and the fact that each of the winners is nominated by members of the public,” a spokesman said.

“This award was made to Mr Kelly personally and this request is no reflection on the work of Console, its volunteers or its fundraisers”.

The body said that the adjudication panel selected Mr Kelly”on the basis of the nomination received and the information available at the time”.

Meanwhile, new interim Console CEO, David Hall, has joined Advocacy Director with the Wheel, Ivan Cooper in demanding that Part 4 of the Charities Act 2009 is made law as soon as possible.

The Irish Examiner newspaper revealed earlier this week that this section of the bill, which gives the Charities Regulatory Authority statutory powers of investigation, hasn’t been enacted.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Ivan Cooper confirmed that 300 complaints were made to the Regulator about 130 charities in the past year.

“But there is no justification for saying that Console is the tip of the iceberg. Up to 12,500 charities have registered with the Regulator so 130 complaints is just complaints about 1% of the operation,” he said.

As Part 4 of the Charities Act is not been activated, the Regulator conducts a risk assessment process around complaints and if concerns remain, it informs the appropriate body eg the Gardai or the Office of Corporate Enforcement.

“The regulator does require pro active investigative powers,” said Mr Cooper.

Meanwhile, Fionnbarr Walsh, the father of suicide awareness campaigner Donal Walsh, has said he was “shocked and disappointed” at the revelations that Paul Kelly, his wife and son had spent almost €500,000 on foreign trips to Australia and the Far East, designer clothes and dining out between 2012 and 2014.

They earned a similar figure in salaries and expenses over the same period.

After his son, Donal died from cancer in 2013, Fionnbarr and his wife raised up to €30,000 to develop Donal Walsh counselling rooms for teenagers at Console centres across the country.

But he warned the public not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater on this one” and to still support the charity’s work.

“It’s still a good organisation, dealing with people who have difficulties and families bereaved by suicide,” he said.

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