Console boss Kelly breaks his silence and says scandal left him 'feeling suicidal'
Disgraced Console boss Paul Kelly today breaks his silence on the scandal that took down the charity – as we reveal for the first time how he is plotting a ‘profitable’ return to the billion-euro mental health industry.
Confronted this week after we discovered he has registered the name of a new ‘for profit’ company, Sanctuary Consultants, to work with victims of bereavement and suicidal thoughts, Kelly broke down, admitting: “I considered taking my own life, I don’t know how I’m alive today.”
In a recorded interview stretching over an hour and conducted inside the former headquarters of Console, a beleaguered Kelly:
- Denied claims he spent hundreds of thousands of euro of Console’s money, funding a lavish lifestyle for him and his family;
- Professed to be “completely broke” and utterly reliant on State handouts;
- Criticised the HSE for not providing even more money to Console;
- And said he is “proud” of all that the charity achieved.
“You’re the first person I’ve spoken to and all I can ask is that you be fair,” Kelly pleaded.
“My reputation is gone, my whole life is gone – taken from me.
“I’ve been totally ripped apart.
“I’m left in a situation where I’m unemployed, broke and I don’t know what the future has in store for me.
“I’ve nothing. I’ve no salary now. Nobody is helping – I’ve lost everything,” he sobbed.
“All I hoped was that one day I’d be able to step aside and move on and let Console flourish and grow – that was my plan and instead it ends up being a complete nightmare.
“It’s a living nightmare and I honestly think we didn’t, and don’t, deserve that.”
In company documents obtained by the Sunday World we discovered that Kelly – who is on the dole – registered the company name Sanctuary Consultants with the Company Registration Office on September 22.
And we can further reveal how, a day earlier, he went live with the website SanctuaryConsultants.ie.
Even though the company name had not yet even been registered, a blurb on the site described it as: “One of Ireland’s leading providers of integrated occupational health, Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and well-being Services for Companies and Organisations.”
The website continues: “The company will assist employers by providing counsellors to help with employees who are experiencing issues including stress, depression, substance abuse, grief, bereavement and suicidal ideation”.
Asked this week whether he believes he should be returning to the field of mental illness, a deflated Kelly insisted: “I’m not working. I’m trying to look at ways of looking for employment, looking for a future.”
Asked if the website is misleading potential clients in describing a fledgling operation as a ‘market leader’, Kelly told us: “We’d hope to be because we’ve experience at it.”
Then, in his first public defence of what he admitted was “huge” spending, amounting to €736,000 on Console’s credit cards between 2012 and 2014, Kelly insisted: “Not a cent of that was for my own personal use.”
On grocery spending of €24,960 in this period, he told us: “We’d be using them for the organisation. Groceries would be cleaning utensils, it could be tea, coffee, literally right across the board to cleaning materials.
“We had centres all over the country – they weren’t for my own personal use.
On restaurant expenses of €32,900 over the three years, he said: “It wasn’t wrongful spending.
“There were situations where you would be entertaining people and you would try to be attracting new donors to raise funds for the organisation – but it wasn’t personal.
Of travel expenses amounting to €71,460 for trips to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Tenerife, Nice, Paris, and London, he said: “When I was over there I was working and in all honesty that was what it was for – and there were times where you would take people out that you’d be working on to try and get them to come over here.
“The Console conferences in Ireland were not to be missed, we had wonderful conferences here.
“We had top experts from around the world who would come and, of course, you would be socialising with them and bringing them out.”
Addressing the spending of an eye-watering €8,377 of the charity’s cash on clothing from shops such as Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Moss Brothers, Kelly said: “There were some purchases for staff who would attend functions and then there were some purchases and vouchers for raffles.
“I did not [spend Console money for my own personal use].”
Questioned as to why his own sister told the High Court her name had been forged on company documents, Kelly evaded answering.
“That’s something that has to be discussed, that’s a legal issue. I’d prefer not to discuss that.”
Quizzed about the purchase of a Mercedes CLS costing €30,600 and an Audi Q5 costing €57,000, which were fully expensed, Kelly denied the vehicles were an unnecessary luxury.
“The car that I used was for business purposes and people forget that,” he said.
“It was purely for business purposes and the cars that we had within the organisation were purely for business purposes. It [the Audi Q5] was very functional. It wasn’t luxury in the sense it was purely for use of the service.
“It looked like that [Console was a personal bank account] when it was all put together, but that wasn’t true.”
Asked about reports he had posed as a doctor and worked in a hospital for two weeks during his youth, Kelly acknowledges this to be true, but is adamant he did not pose as an airline pilot.
“That allegation about posing as a doctor, to be honest there was truth in that in the sense I went for the interview and I got the job. It was a stupid thing to do, but I never posed as an airline pilot.
“The person who said that – who said he met me on Grafton Street dressed as an airline pilot – I probably did bump into him, but I was in my airline uniform because I worked for Aer Lingus at the time.
“For me, the hardest part was being made out to be this Walter Mitty-type individual. It’s been a living nightmare. I don’t know how I’m surviving.
“I felt my life wasn’t worth living and still I’m not in a good place. When I think about what has happened, it’s like a tsunami – I felt I couldn’t respond.
“I know the devastation it brings. I lost my sister to suicide – I have a young family myself, but I’m only human.
“It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back and as I sit here before you today I don’t know where I am.”
Asked whether he is fearful that a Garda probe into his stint at the head of Console could yet result in charges being pressed against him, Kelly said he is not.
“There have been investigations going on. I’ve nothing to fear from it.
“At the end of the day I’m very happy with the work I’ve done, I’m proud of that.
“The organisation itself was grossly underfunded. I had sleepless nights worrying about how we were going to fund it.
“We had to spend money to raise money, so in that sense it was for the greater good.
“The [HSE] got great value for money and we were grossly underfunded by the HSE.
“Maybe I wasn’t strong enough in fighting for more money from the HSE. They should have given us more money and they’d admit that themselves. If they would have given us €1.2 million then we could have managed that.
“I think the way it [the spending] was presented gave the perception it was all personal expenditure and it wasn’t.
“I feel that a tremendous injustice has been done to myself and my family… and to a lot of people who supported me.
“My heart is broken because of that and I feel that I have been vilified and I don’t think I deserve that.
“I believe I worked very hard for the organisation and I deserve a bit of credit for that. I’m saying I did not misspend any money belonging to the organisation. And I’m very proud of what we achieved.”