BY JACKIE KEOGH
THE founder of the Live Life Foundation has called on the Government to give the charities regulator greater power to probe wrong-doing in the sector, in the wake of the Console scandal.
Fionnbar Walsh, together with his wife Elma, set up the foundation in memory of their son, Donal, who memorably spoke out on the subject of teen suicide before his untimely death from cancer in 2013.
Fionnbar, who is the manager of The Maritime Hotel in Bantry, said the foundation was approached by the Console charity to see if it would consider putting in teenage counselling rooms.
He told The Southern Star: ‘We know that we donated for this purpose the sum of €30,000, which was receipted, and we know that the rooms do exist in Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Athlone and Dublin.
‘What we were putting funding towards was done on our behalf. We have no difficulty with the day-to-day operation of Console and the provision of service to particularly vulnerable families who would have somebody bereaved through suicide.
‘But what we do find very disappointing and disheartening is the way the corporate governance has been abused by some directors within the organisation. I have no wish to be personal, but the rigours that charities have to go through when being set up had not been complied with in this instance.
‘Console was set up before the current regulations were put in place. When we set up Donal’s Foundation we were given very strong advice and guidance by the tax office to ensure we would be in compliance.
Fionnbar added: ‘I find these revelations deflating because it reflects badly on good charities that don’t have people benefiting personally from what they do, and the money they raise.
‘The one thing this government needs to do is to give the charity regulator the teeth needed to go and investigate charities properly. One of the difficulties for the regulator is that every sports club and every school in the country can claim charitable status. That means that in every parish in the country there could be a minimum of three charities, because with 25 parishes per county and 26 counties, it too unwieldy.
‘Meanwhile, it is important to note that Console’s work continues on a daily basis, offering help and support to the most vulnerable people,’ he pointed out.