DFA wants Console money back

Dept Foreign Affairs wants Console money back
Paul Kelly, CEO of Console, a suicide support network. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The Irish government is seeking return of grants made in 2013, 2014 and 2015 totalling €150,889

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says it is chasing the disgraced founder of bereavement charity Console, and his family, to repay €150,000 it received from its Emigrant Support Programme (ESP).

They have been asked to repay in full Emigrant Support Programme grants awarded to Console in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The money had been intended to fund so-called “bereavement services” in the UK.

The money, paid in three annual grants, disappeared in lavish personal spending sprees by Paul Kelly and his wife, Patricia, and their son, Tim, which plunged the charity into bankruptcy and liquidation.

A long-awaited liquidator’s report will shortly be sent to Ireland’s Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which has just completed its most recent round of Emigrant Support Programme grants and informed applicants how much it is prepared to give them issued a statement at the weekend in which it said it had written to Kelly and his wife, Patricia, a director, demanding the return of €150,889 in grants.

Dept Foreign Affairs wants Console money back
Liquidator Tom Murray will tell creditors there is little left to pay them what they are owed.

In its statement it said: The Department confirms that following the conclusion of an audit by the Department’s Evaluation and Audit Unit, repayment of these grants was requested.

“There is an investigation ongoing by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement into issues surrounding the liquidation of Console, and as such there will be no further comment from the Department on this matter.”

Founder and one-time chief executive Paul Kelly was forced to quit the Irish charity last year after details emerged of hugely extravagant luxury travel and shopping binges emerged at the same time as it was learned staff and suppliers had not been paid for months.

Luxury lifestyle

Mr Kelly, his wife Patricia, and their son Tim, benefited by almost €500,000 in salaries and cars between 2012 and 2014.

A further €500,000 approximately was spent during that time on Console credit on groceries, designer clothes, and foreign trips. Paul, Patricia, and Tim Kelly used 11 credit cards over the three-year period, it was reported.

The cards were reportedly used for large unvouched cash withdrawals, trips to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and other destinations, designer clothing from outlets such as Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss, dining out, Rugby World Cup tickets, and dental work.

Between 2012 and 2014, €736,000 was spent on 20 credit and charge cards issued to Console’s credit cards of which Paul, Patricia, and Tim Kelly held 11.

Paul Kelly held two cards in his own name and two cards in the name of an employee who had actually left the organisation over six years earlier. Patricia Kelly held four cards and Tim Kelly held three.

Dept Foreign Affairs wants Console money back
Patricia Kelly held four of the charity’s 20 credit cards

Weeks after the revelations a liquidator, Tom Murray, was appointed to the charity by the High Court after it heard it was insolvent and €294,000 in debt. The liquidator found that public funds were misused and wrongly allocated, with €80,000 at one point transferred from Console’s UK office to Console in Ireland.

The UK office, launched in the House of Lords and run by son Tim Kelly, ran up a €112,000 bill on airfares, groceries, clothing, restaurants, train fares and entertainment.

The liquidator recovered little from selling the charity’s assets, which include two company cars and a property on the Navan Road.

The man briefly appointed to run the charity before it went into liquidation, former interim CEO of Console David Hall, told Irish radio there had been a drop in donations to charities in Ireland following the Console revelations.

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