Calls for state to investigate charity

THE HSE is incapable of sorting out ongoing serious difficulties in a charity for survivors of institutional abuse so the Government must now step in, it has been claimed.

Labour’s Sean Sherlock said a raft of serious question marks remained over Cork-based charity Right of Place, but despite this, it seemed to be “business as usual”.

He will raise the matter in the Dáil this week saying it is time for ministerial intervention.

Mr Sherlock said the experience of a female volunteer at the charity, Catherine Coffey, which was brought to his attention was the “straw which broke the camels back”.

Ms Coffey, a founding member of the Kerry branch of Right of Place, has made a complaint to the gardaí and the HSE over alleged threats made to her at the offices of Right of Place.

Ms Coffey is claiming she was verbally abused and threatened on several occasions by a member of the charity.

She claimed the founder of the project, Noel Barry, was allowing this to go on and claimed the charity was “dysfunctional”.

She has written letters of complaint to the HSE, the charity’s founder Noel Barry, and the head of the new committee Oliver Burke.

Mr Burke said he was aware of Ms Coffey’s claims and said she had a “genuine complaint”.

He said Right of Place needed to be investigated fully to move forward in a new era of accountability and transparency

However, Mr Burke said he now had “grave concerns” that the HSE would not tackle the real issues within Right of Place.

Mr Sherlock said there was a complete lack of transparency within the charity. He said there was a “triangular relationship” between the HSE, the department of Education and the charity, and it appeared as though Mr Barry enjoyed the support of an existing Government minister.

Mr Sherlock said if this was the case, the Government now had to answer questions about the organisation and how it was run in the past.

“The focus now has to switch to the Government and the Cabinet must make a statement. This is an issue that is not going away and needs ministerial intervention,” he said.

The organisation has been under scrutiny since late last year after the HSE ordered that its founder Mr Barry answer questions in relation to how it was spending its money. One of the country’s largest survivor groups, it has received millions in Government funding since 2002 and continues to receive money.

An Irish Examiner investigation last December revealed the group, unknown to its members, had, as well as Government funds, received hundreds of thousands from religious orders and bishops.

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