Top-up payments - Charities must be transparent

The sense of public outrage at the latest top-up disclosures in relation to the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) is matched only by the public incredulity that such a thing could be allowed to happen.

Between 1998 and 2011, almost three-quarters of €27.8m donated to the charity wing of CRC was not sent to the clinic.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described this controversy as unacceptable in any circumstances. People had a right to expect that the money donated was going for the facilities and services used by the children who attend the CRC, rather than being diverted into top-up payments on the salaries of staff members.

It is hard to have confidence in the Government on this matter after its dismal failure to lead in relation to salary caps. At the outset, it trampled on those caps by exempting some of its own highly paid advisers. Leading by bad example has always been a perversion of true leadership. The press and the media have been taking the lead in exposing these shoddy practices, while the Government has only been reacting. And it has been reacting at its leisure for the most part.

Ruairi Quinn called for the members of the CRC board to resign. Did the directors know what was happening? They may have been totally unaware, but if that was the case, they should already have disassociated themselves with this reprehensible behaviour by voluntarily resigning their position in protest without being asked to do so. Either way, they should all go now.

The abuse of the money donated for charitable purposes could have devastating consequences in undermining all charities, including those well-run charities that provide invaluable services. Irish people have distinguished themselves with their charitable work over the decades. Many gave not only their money and time but also dedicated their lives to charitable causes.

For a tiny country, our people played magnificent roles in the developing world. The Catholic Church played a leading role, but people should be aware of the danger of allowing a comparatively few abusers to betray and undermine the valuable work of the many.

Last week, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin compared the cover-up of sexual misconduct within Sinn Féin to what has been happening in the Catholic Church. One can only imagine the rumpus that would have been kicked up not long ago if any political leader had dared make such a comparison. But there was hardly a whisper last week as most people clearly understood and obviously empathised with the comparison.

People must recognise the ultimate cost of allowing individuals to violate the public trust. The invaluable work done by responsible charities must be protected against indifferent administration.

Transparency is needed in relation to all money contributed to charities. They all should provide a breakdown on what percentage of the money collected goes for the stated purposes and what is spent “on administration”, or other things. In the light of recent disclosures such transparency will inevitably be necessary to inspire continued public confidence.

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