Right of Place charity launches appeal with a difference

A SUPPORT group for victims of clerical abuse that has received more than €3million from the taxpayer has admitted it has no idea where all the cash has gone.

The charity is now in the extraordinary position of asking anyone who has ever made a donation or received its help to get in touch so it can work out exactly how much money has gone missing.

The bizarre move comes after the HSE stepped in to appoint a temporary administrator to run Right of Place/Second Chance, which is carrying out a full investigation of its finances.

Tom Wall, a director of the Cork-based charity, said last night: ‘As bad as it sounds, we simply do not know exactly how much money the charity has received. And, more worryingly, we don’t know what it has done with the money.

‘I would urge anybody to get in touch with us and let us know how much money they gave us and when.’

He added: ‘There is a feeling at the charity that in the past it has not always acted in the best interests of its members and that is very regrettable.’

Tom Cronin, a survivor of institutional abuse at Presentation Brothers’ Greenmount Industrial School in Cork who helped set up the group in 1999, welcomed the internal audit, which he has been demanding since 2006.

He said last night: ‘Just who actually benefited from this charity is still something of a mystery. That is an outrageous situation and it has gone on for far too long.

‘I am delighted that the board are taking such a bold and innovative step as part of their determination to restructure the charity. I think it’s now just a matter of time before the gardaí are called in.’

Mr Cronin, who resigned from the board of directors in 2001, accused the Government of handing over vast amounts of Exchequer money for more than 10 years without bothering to find out where it was going.

‘The various departments who have given money to this charity have, in my opinion, being a bit relaxed when it comes to checks and balances,’ he said.

The Irish Daily Mail has learned that between 2001 and 2008 the Department of Education gave a total of €980,080 to Right of Place, which claims to represent 1,500 people.

A further €677,000 was received from the Department of Health between 2002 and 2005. Between 2006 and 2010, the HSE – which took over funding for the charity from the Department of Health – gave €1,498,723.

On top of the €3.1million in direct government funding, the charity also received €50,000 Lotto funding in 2003.

Controversially, it also accepted money from some of the very religious orders that ran institutions accused of abusing the people it claims to help.

The exact amount the various organisations gave is not publicly known but it is estimated at €300,000.

The Sisters of Mercy in Cork were involved in sourcing at least €20,000 for the charity but by last year they were demanding to know how the money was actually being spent.

In 2009, Sister Maria McGuinness from St Columba’s Convent in Cork wrote to the charity saying: ‘I would be grateful to receive the detailed breakdown of how the grant of €20,000 was spent.’

Other orders include Brothers of Charity, which gave €5,000 in 2000, the Sisters of Charity, which gave €10,000 in 2006, and the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity. The Galway-based charity donated €6,350 in 2002.

The Rosminians Institute of Charity in Drumcondra, Dublin, donated €5,000 the previous year.

The HSE last night denied ignoring how Right of Place administered taxpayers’ money.

A spokesman said: ‘During the period December 2009 to date, the HSE has worked with the organisation to bring about structure and good governance.

‘In May 2010 all parties signed an agreement which created a pathway to move forward. It provided a mechanism to democratically elect a new board of directors representative of the local committees of the organisation.’

 She said the HSE would not be able to give details about its funding plans for Right of Place next year until the Budget has been announced.

Mr Wall said: ‘We are currently going through a major restructuring process. A major part of that is a detailed look at the charity’s finances.’