herald

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Bizarre past of charity chief laid bare as organisers seek to strip him of hero award

Console’s Paul Kelly with his Everyday Hero Award in 2014
Console’s Paul Kelly with his Everyday Hero Award in 2014
Kelly in 2013 at the Console fun cycle along the Grand Canal Pic: Collins Photos

The organisation that awarded Console founder Paul Kelly with a People of the Year award in 2014, in recognition of his work with the charity he founded after the death of his sister by suicide, wants the award back.

He was presented with the Everyday Hero award by singer Sharon Corr at a glitzy ceremony in Dublin and commended "for challenging the perceptions of suicide and having the determination to establish the first dedicated suicide prevention and support services in Ireland".

Now, he has been asked to give the award back in light of allegations surrounding his management of the suicide charity's finances.

A public onslaught has greeted the revelations, leaving the organisers of the awards no option but to write to him and ask him to surrender the title.

"This award was made to Mr Kelly personally and this request is no reflection on the work of Console, its volunteers or its fundraisers, who have helped many thousands of people bereaved by suicide over many years," said a spokesperson.

Questions

"In light of revelations in recent days and on foot of queries from members of the public, the People of the Year Awards has written to Paul Kelly asking him to return his award in order to protect the standing and integrity of the awards."

This letter will be one of dozens lurking in the mailbox outside his home in Kildare yesterday. Locals said it has remained empty for several days.

Kelly's phone is ringing out, texts go unanswered and less than two years after being named one of the country's most honourable men, essentially he is on the run, avoiding the public and questions arising from the recent allegations.

It is not the first time the Ballyfermot native has made headlines for the wrong reasons.

After a bizarre incident in 1983, he was given the Probation Act for spending three weeks pretending to be a doctor at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital in Baggot Street.

He later founded a counselling charity, Christian Development Services (CDS), describing himself as Father or Brother Paul Kelly of the Order of San Damiano. He was also listed as Rev Paul Kelly, Servants of the Poor.

When questioned about this order, he insisted he was entitled to refer to himself as Brother or Reverend at different times and that he was ordained in 1988.

He claimed he was setting up a new religious congregation, known as the Order of San Damian o.

He said he had been ordained into the Order of the Mother of God by independent bishop Michael Cox of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Setting up CDS included issuing lists of trustees to attract funding. One of those listed without permission was former Taoiseach but then Minister for Labour Bertie Ahern.

Mr Ahern later said he had people continuously ringing his office believing he was a trustee.

Kelly set up Console in 2002, one year after his 21-year-old sister Sharon died by suicide.

Suicide

It initially functioned as an informative support for those bereaved by suicide.

It eventually grew into a national organisation providing a comprehensive range of community-based professional suicide prevention and 'postvention' services, supports and resources in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Wexford, Kerry and Mayo. Console also operates a 24-hour helpline.

Three years ago, the charity opened its first counselling centre in the UK at Westminster in London to help the Irish emigrant communities.

But yesterday, Kelly was nowhere to be seen and prevented, via a court injunction, from operating his charity.

Shock and outrage has followed the revelations.

The father of the late cancer campaigner Donal Walsh has expressed his disappointment but added he is certain money his family allocated to the charity was spent correctly.

Fionnbar Walsh raises funds with his family to provide 'Donal's Rooms' in Console centres.

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