A Roscommon town man is furious with the revelations at Console after he jointly raised around €15,000 for the suicide bereavement charity last year.
Beginning at the end of July and finishing in September, Ruairí Leddy kayaked around Ireland with his friend Pearse O’Toole, from Spiddal in Co. Galway. In total, they completed 1,500 km in their trek.
All the money that they raised went to Console, the charity whose former Chief Executive has been surrounded by allegations of fraudulence recently.
According to a HSE audit obtained by RTÉ, Paul Kelly, the charity’s disgraced former Chief Executive, and his wife, Patricia, and their son Tim, benefitted by almost €491,649 in salaries and perks between 2012 and 2014.
The audit also revealed that a further €464,777 was spent by the Kellys during that period on Console credit cards for items including groceries, designer clothes and foreign trips.
Mr. Leddy, 34, who lives at Ardsallagh in the county town, said that he was extremely annoyed by the revelations.
“It’s a kick in the teeth really. I was gutted to hear it,” he said.
“The achievement of kayaking around Ireland was massive, but the achievement of raising so much money for a really worthwhile charity, I took more from that even than the kayak.
“So when these revelations came out, that has just tainted all that.”
Mr. Leddy strongly criticised Mr. Kelly, the former Chief Executive
“He has no conscience at all, no empathy at all. I don’t know how he or his family slept at night. It’s shocking stuff,” he said.
Mr. Leddy and Mr. O’Toole, a friend from Galway, decided to donate to Console because both had been touched by suicide and felt that the charity was well regarded.
Mr. Leddy, who works as youth worker for Foróige in Galway, said that they never imagined there would be any corruption within a charity “with as big a name as Console.”
“Especially when it is receiving so much from the HSE, from taxpayers’ money, you would think that it was pretty well regulated. But that was far from the case.”
As well as the €15,000 donated to Console, the two lads also devoted a lot of their own resources to the adventure.
“We would have spent around €12,000/€13,000 between us – between boats, gear, safety equipment, flares and electronics,” Mr. Leddy said. “Food was a massive expense.
“I am not even factoring in that we took six weeks off work to do it.”
As demanding as it was, Mr. Leddy loved the experience of kayaking around Ireland, mainly because of the sense of achievement involved and the satisfaction of raising awareness “for what I thought was a great charity”.
He said that he was now having second thoughts about undertaking another humanitarian effort in the future.
“I would have loved to have done something for charity in the future but, after these revelations, I wouldn’t be so sure,” Mr. Leddy said.
“I would find it very hard to go back to my friends who gave up their really hard-earned cash to ask them for money again after this has happened.
“Some of my friends would be students and they wouldn’t have a lot of disposable income and they were donating like €100/€200. That’s what I really feel sorry about.
“I felt that the money was going to a good place. To find out the way it was being spent is a kick in the teeth.”