Talks on transfer of Console services to suicide prevention and depression charities

Health Minister Simon Harris, senior HSE officials, and Console’s interim CEO David Hall are contacting a series of high-profile suicide prevention and depression charities in a bid to convince them to take on Console’s frontline services.

Talks on transfer of Console services to suicide prevention and depression charities

The move was confirmed after two weeks of scandal surrounding alleged serious financial irregularity by former CEO Paul Kelly.

Mr Harris organised a meeting early yesterday with the HSE, charities regulator John Farrelly, Department of Health officials, and Mr Hall.

This step was taken after the interim Console CEO lashed out at alleged inaction by the Government and the HSE in addressing the crisis.

During the meeting, described as constructive and cordial, it was decided to scrap the long-standing Console charity as it is believed the damage done to its reputation is irreversible and that is will otherwise run out of funds by next week.

In order to ensure services are not affected, it was also agreed that Mr Harris, Department of Health officials, and the HSE would contact a number of similar charities to ask them to take over Console’s helpline and bereavement services.

While no groups have yet been confirmed, it is understood both the Samaritans and Aware have received requests to take control of sections of Console, among other organisations.

However, the groups are likely to require significant additional funding to ensure they are adequately resourced to accept the extra responsibilities.

Mr Hall informed Console’s 12 full-time staff members and representatives of 60 other part-time staff around the country at a lengthy and at times emotional meeting in Dublin yesterday afternoon.

He is also understood to have informed them that without the charity being wound up, it would run out of money within days, and that both services and staff members are currently out of pocket by hundreds of thousands of euro.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris declined to confirm the move last night, other than to say progress is being made in addressing the crisis.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the HSE — which has direct state responsibility for Console as it provides its exchequer funding — said moves are in place to ensure services continue.

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Both the Green Party and Fianna Fáil said yesterday existing services must be maintained.

However, speaking during the latest Dáil Leaders’ Questions debate, Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath lambasted the Government for an allegedly slow reaction to the scandal.

“There has been a lack of political leadership on the issue... Not a single minister has picked up the phone to David Hall [before Thursday morning],” he told Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who at the time said he could not give “a definitive answer” on whether Console’s services would continue.

Meanwhile, the Dáil’s newly-formed cross-party Public Accounts Committee has reiterated its demand to meet HSE officials on the issue next Friday.

PAC members across the political divide — including Labour’s Alan Kelly, Fine Gael’s Josepha Madigan, and Fianna Fáil’s Shane Cassells— said the charities regulator should also attend a later public grilling.

However, any agreement on who else, other the HSE should attend, has been delayed until after the initial meeting.

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