The entire board of one of Ireland’s best known charities has resigned en masse amid a growing scandal over cronyism and inappropriate payments in the Irish voluntary sector.
The 26-County Health Service Executive said it had sought the dissolution of the board of the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), and its re-constitution with new members after it emerged that charitable funds intended for the care of children with disabilities had been diverted to fund giant pension payments for its former CEO.
The CRC is 80% funded by the 26-County government. The Dail Public Accounts Committee was told this week that Paul Kiely, in addition to the six-figure ‘top-up bonus’ previously reported, is also in receipt of a cash ‘pension’ worth four million euro being gleaned from sources including charitable donations, raffles, table quizzes and collection boxes.
It also emerged that the CRC has been paying vast amounts of money -- 666,000 euro last year alone in -- to a long-defunct pension fund at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, stemming from an obscure agreement going back over 30 years.
Members of the committee such as independent TD Shane Ross said it was not a “coincidence” that members of the CRC board have links to Fianna Fail and a background in the Mater hospital, where the party’s disgraced former leader Bertie Ahern once worked in the accounts department.
The acting CRC chief executive Jim Nugent was among those who famously gave a “dig-out” to the former Taoiseach, a fact which emerged in the course of a tribunal into political corruption.
Mr Nugent was a key member of the “Drumcondra mafia” who were close to Mr Ahern and he told the Mahon Tribunal that he gave the former Taoiseach [euro]2,500. It was reported this week that he received loans of some nine million euro from two separate banks which remain outstanding.
Speaking after a meeting of the CRC board earlier this week, Nugent was defiant. He said: “The board does not intend to resign and sees no purpose -- nor does the board believe that anything that has been said would warrant that.”
Meanwhile, calls by Sinn Fein for an inquiry into inappropriate ‘bonus’ payments, six-figure salaries and playboy lifestyles of board members of other voluntary organisations received a bizarre response from the 26-County Taoiseach.
Enda Kenny said the HSE ‘did not need outside help’ to get to the bottom of the arrangements it made with some health agencies. and rejected calls from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to put the investigation into outside hands.
“Every single day brings a new revelation about the health service,” Mr Adams told the Dail.
Mr Kenny responded that he was “absolutely correct” in saying that “every day brings new revelations about new things”. He added: “It doesn’t just apply to the health service, or issues about charities or anything else. I think you know what I’m talking about”.
The comment was an apparent reference to the current effort by the establishment media in Ireland to discredit the Sinn Fein leader, using issues as diverse as the Smithwick report on Garda collusion, his brother Liam’s conviction for child abuse and the abduction and death in 1972 of west Belfast informer Jean McConville.
Mr Adams objected to Kenny’s attempt to change the subject and said he was asking “pertinent questions” about the charity payments scandal but “then you go off on a meander that is beyond my comprehension”. He said if Mr Kenny wanted a debate about the conflict, he was prepared to have it with him any time or any place.
“We will examine the role of your party historically, we will examine the role of your party’s leaders historically, as well as my role and the role of anybody else in republicanism,” Mr Adams said. “But don’t use that issue, Taoiseach, to dodge the questions because the fact is that this issue of top-up payments is bigger.”
Kenny said: “If you want a debate about the past, you should start by clarifying for everybody in this country whether or not you were a member of the IRA”, and then started repeating, “Nobody believes you nobody believes you” before the discussion was brought to a close.