Sunday 27 May 2018

'You give a guy a cheque and he's smiling and you don't realise he'll spend it...'

Chef Derry Clarke with the former chief executive and founder of Console, Paul Kelly (on left). Photo: Kinlan Photography
Chef Derry Clarke with the former chief executive and founder of Console, Paul Kelly (on left). Photo: Kinlan Photography
Celebrities Eamonn Coghlan (left), Pat Kenny (centre), and Derry Clarke (right) on one of Console’s fundraisers

Restauranteur and supporter of Console Derry Clarke believes that the suicide bereavement support charity has been destroyed by "greed".

Mr Clarke, who lost a son through suicide in 2013 and used the services provided by the group, went on to fundraise thousands of euro for the charity headed by disgraced former chief executive Paul Kelly.

As news of the wind-down of Console emerged, Mr Clarke said the word that kept coming up was "greed".

"The word I'm looking at on social media, which says a lot of it all the time, is greed," he told the Herald.


Mr Clarke said it was hard to put into words how he was feeling as the troubled charity looked set to close.

"It's very hard when you give a guy a cheque in January and he's smiling, and you think he's smiling because it's for his charity and it'll do good, and you don't realise he's going to spend it," he said.

The chef and owner of L'Ecrivian restaurant in Dublin said he was disappointed for the "spectacular" staff at Console, and said he hopes the vital services run by the charity can be saved.

"It's an awful shame. They did a great job, as an organisation what they did was great,"

"I think everybody feels let down, especially with the charity folding up, it really hurts. I understand why they did it but it hurts.

"I was hoping at best they'd rename it and move it on but that's the way it is, we have to get on with it and move on," he said.

Mr Clarke said Console has done a lot to raise mental health awareness in Ireland and to banish the stigma around suicide.

"The worst thing is that there is always stigma around suicide in Ireland, and over the last couple of years we were getting over that, I thought, as a society. Console was one that helped that a lot and it's a shame we're going backwards on that," he said.

Mr Clarke said he was experiencing "mixed emotions" about the end of Console as the controversy has taken away from all the good work done.

"I don't know how I feel. I don't want to look upon it as a waste, the best you can say that came out of it is awareness, so that was one benefit I suppose.

"The downside was it was just a waste, a waste of money. It's a spectacular charity, it's a complete waste for everyone involved - it's a shame. Especially because people had good intentions and there was good honest people working at it - it was doing really well.


"To sum it up, when I was doing the cycle and doing this and that, I felt that I was doing something positive for myself and my memories and my son's memories. And suddenly you have this and it takes away from that. It takes away form the achievement," he added.

Meanwhile, Elma Walsh, mum to the late Donal Walsh who inspired the nation when he spoke out about his battle with cancer, has revealed her "shock and disappointment" at the winding down of Console.

The Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation donated money to fund teenage counselling rooms in a Console centre in Tralee.

"The areas that Console are in are very vulnerable areas and I'd be worried about the people of Ireland really because there is a lot of people bereaved by suicide who need counselling and who need the assistance from them," she said.

"I'm very shocked and disappointed to hear they are rolling down the services. I hope someone can come in and take over from them. We put the rooms in [Console House in Tralee] because we thought that it would be a permanent facility for teenagers and you would hope that that would stay open."

Ms Walsh said charities will undoubtedly suffer from a fall in donations on the back of the scandal.

"I wouldn't blame people for not giving to charities if they don't know where the money is going. A lot of it is going into wages and admin.

"The thing with us is we don't take a wage and we give to teenage projects that have a five-year benefit," she said.

"It's amazing the generosity in people out there. To take advantage of the generosity of people who fundraise ... and to abuse that money is so wrong."

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