The charities regulator needs to be handed powers to step in and protect charities when they are facing emergency situations, according to the former chair of Inner City Helping Homeless.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening David Hall said the turmoil surrounding the Dublin homeless charity in recent weeks has highlighted how “utterly useless” Ireland’s charity regulatory system is.
It comes after it emerged the former CEO of the charity Cllr Anthony Flynn was facing allegations of sexually assaulting men he had secured accommodation for through the charity.
Mr Flynn took his own life in late August shortly after being suspended from his role with the charity.
Shortly afterward, David Hall stepped down from his role as chair of the charity, telling staff he was following the advice of Gardaí following threats to his personal safety.
In his first interview since stepping down, he told Kieran Cuddihy this evening that he was left with no choice.
“I stood down because I was having great difficulty in relation to being able to go into the premises in and around the area,” he said.
“Tensions were high, tensions were heightened. People were very upset, understandably, after Anthony took his own life.
“Many people blamed me and Anthony, prior to his passing away, sort of blamed me for suspending him and that unfortunately, left a very tense and difficult situation for me.”
Mr Hall said the situation was “very difficult for many people.”
“This was a very difficult situation that arose, a very sudden situation that arose and a very tragic situation that arose in relation to Anthony,” he said.
“Anthony was a friend of mine. He was a friend of many people who would have worked closely with him and would have had a lot of time and a lot of success in helping homeless people.
“This was the most difficult set of circumstances for anybody to be involved in. Both me personally and for any of the staff, volunteers and supporters it was an incredibly difficult time.”
He said he had to step aside as tensions rose.
“I had no choice but to protect myself and my family and in a tense situation, step back and try where I can to help in circumstances outside the organisation,” he said.
“But as I say the entire generality of this needs protection. Trustees in my circumstances and others need help and assistance and guidance in those circumstances – none of which is available from the regulator.”
He said the charities regulator system was “utterly useless” in protecting the staff at ICHH and the great work they do every night.
“In circumstances where you have vulnerable people - adults and children - and frontline services being provided by charities - and charities of such huge importance from a poverty perspective that people rely on them every day - there needs to be a much more accelerated process to step in, step up and protect everybody involved,” he said.
He said many people misunderstand how limited the charity regulator’s powers are.
“The speed at which they take place is a snail’s place,” he said.
“These are very important charities; very important service being provided and have great goodwill from the public but as controversies drag on these good charities continually get mired in bad public confidence.”
Mr Hall said ICHH has l apply to the High Court for the appointment of an inspector to review and inspect the affairs of the charity and make recommendations on its future.
Members have been told the application will be made in two weeks' time.
“There is a responsibility that everybody has to take and has to look back in relation to time and how they conducted themselves,” he said.
“I am happy with my actions and the protections put in place for as many people as I humanly could but again, the overarching component that is missing is regulatory framework and support and crisis management structure that can help organisations in those circumstances into the future.”
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