Day after day, across the road from our shop, at the entrance to the new shopping centre here in Athlone, there are lads collecting for a number of different charities and while I can’t afford to make a contribution every time I cross the road, up to now I try to give what I can, as often as I can.
Over the last couple of years I’ve got to know a couple of these lads, who are professional collectors who live in Galway but who are nearly always on the job by 9 o’clock in the morning. I don’t know how much they get paid, apart from the fact that they get a weekly wage, but I do know that their daily travel by train is paid for by their employers and they work for what appears to be an umbrella company which collects for a few different charities, principally The Hanley Centre for addiction and also for the homeless.
Now I have no issue with lads getting paid for what they do, as standing for seven or eight hours in the wind, heat or cold (they only pack it in if the rain is too heavy), day after day is no joke and if they weren’t there, there might be no other means for getting financial support for their various organisations. To those lads, what they do is a job, the same as I come to work here every morning. It’s all about putting food on the table, paying a few of the many bills that come our way and, like a lot of us, I’m pretty certain that their remuneration is nothing to get excited about. And so, as the fallout from the Console affair continues and as it appears at least a million euros was misappropriated by the founder of the charity, Paul Kelly and members of his family, I just wonder what effect his actions will have on the ability of these lads to earn a living and also on their ability to collect for the charities involved.
Today (Friday) in the Daily Mail, it is said that the regulator is investigating 300 complaints against 130 different charities and the feeling seems to be that we are only at the tip of the iceberg and there will be more and more damning revelations coming out. And yet, there are so many good people doing great and absolutely necessary work for so many charitable purposes all around the country that we have to still keep giving what we can, but the authorities have to ensure that the money goes to the proper places.
It beggars belief that the scale of the deception at Console could escape detection and even when concerns were first raised in 2009, it took nearly seven more years before anything was done! As with everything, if the lad on the side of the road collecting fiddled a few euros for himself, he would face the full rigors of the law. However, people like Paul Kelly, who got several awards for his charitable work, seem to be beyond all reproach and we will wait and see if he pays for his crimes. He may in some small way but I doubt if he’ll end up in any of our prison cells!
Dubious lawsuits are a scandal
Every other day it seems that someone is suing someone for something. There’s hardly a day goes by that we don’t read about someone slipping on a banana skin or sticking a foot into a hole or tripping over something that shouldn’t be there. It all ends up in the compensation courts and lends the sceptic in me to believe that a lot of it is to do with getting some easy money.
Now there is also no doubt that there are genuine claims out there, but they and their credibility are being damaged by cases like a recent one, where the claimant was suing for thousands for a damaged back when he was filmed doing cartwheels and handstands on a pub table in the early hours of the morning. He deserved nothing and anyway, he was then stupid enough to put the video up on facebook or YouTube or one of those ridiculous media websites.
It is also very common nowadays to sue the HSE for all kinds of different things and again there are a lot of these cases that are totally justified. But I have to say that in a large number of visits to different hospitals, including one to the University Hospital in Galway only last Thursday, I have never had anything other than excellent treatment and care. I think it’s a pity that we have reached the stage that even small mistakes have to be paid for and lawsuits almost inevitably follow. Insurance premiums are going through the roof, so we are all paying in one way or another for every dubious claim that finds it’s way into the courtroom.
Farewell to Delia
Finally for this week, last weekend we bid farewell to a great lady, Delia Flynn from Farm, Williamstown, who departed this world at the ripe old age of 96 years. Now I have known her three sons – Tom, Bill and John – for many a year, and I in fact played rugby alongside Bill and John many times when they wore the Creggs rugby jersey, but it was for a different reason altogether that I had to go to say my final goodbyes to Delia.
Thirty-six years ago this coming August, I was getting married, with the reception being held in the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon and the only job that was left to me was to organise the band. As the dinner came to a close Carol, my new wife, turned to me and asked me was there any sign of the musicians, which should have been Delia and her group, the Vienna. The penny dropped all of a sudden that I had never booked them and so I hurried out to reception to try and get in touch with Delia. Bear in mind that there were no mobile phones at that time and so I rang the Flynn home, where her husband, Tom, told me Delia was in the bog.
I explained my predicament and he went to the bog and set the miracle in motion that eventually ended with Delia and the Vienna’s taking to the stage a little late, but nonetheless in such time that no one had noticed the music hadn’t started. Carol said a few words to Delia, concerning her late arrival and to this day I have not forgotten Delia for not letting the cat out of the bag. She never said that I hadn’t booked her at all and in saying nothing she saved me, probably my life and definitely my marriage!
And so, over the last 36 years or so, I have always been indebted to Delia (I met John Connaughton at her funeral and he too played on the band that fateful day), and as she leaves this mortal world, I will never forget her. To her family, friends and relations, my sincerest sympathies, may she rest in peace.
‘Till next week, Bye for now