Sunday 15 September 2019

Console's Kelly on the dole gives no consolation to fundraisers

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly

By david looby

A man unknown to billions of people who improved the lives of millions in his country died on July 8.

In a week which has seen unbearable tragedy inflicted on innocent people on a night out in Nice and further tragedy in Turkey and America, where police have been gunned down, the death of Abdul Sattar Edhi from Pakistan, was understandably not headline news.

But his life deserves mention and he deserves to be celebrated. Edhi's mother was paralysed by a stroke when he was 11 and he cared for her until her death eight years later. He resolved to care for the vulnerable in his country of 190 million people, begging on the street for money to establish a free hospital. Since then his work has rescued 20,000 abandoned children, rehabilitated 50,000 orphans and trained 40,000 nurses. He established the world's largest ambulance service, free nursing homes orphanages, women's shelters, rehabilitation centres and clinics. He only ever owned two outfits and never took a salary from the foundation.

He once said: 'When you stop living for luxuries you understand the real meaning of life,' and he was a happy man.

Now consider Console's Paul Kelly, a man who lived the life of Reilly on the sweat and tears of volunteers who raised millions for a charity established to provide counselling, therapy and support to individuals, couples, families and children who have been bereaved by suicide. It also had a 24/7 suicide helpline.

Kelly's dubious character was evident from a young age. Having worked as a lab aide in St James's Hospital, he applied and got a job as a casualty doctor with no qualifications whatsoever. He passed himself off as a priest and set up Christian Development Services, a counselling service which, like Console, took in cash donations. It ended up closing down after he was confronted by his own staff. Kelly next surfaced in 2002 with his Console charity which he claimed was in tribute to his late sister.

A confidence man who was able to convince everyone of his mission, Kelly amassed huge wealth and lived a fantastic life. People across Ireland raised millions for Console in recent years through various activities. They volunteered their time and energy collecting money in all hail, rain and all kinds of weather, many having lost someone through suicide.

In raising that money they felt they were doing something for their loved one. It was a form of catharsis and it must have been sickening for them to learn of how that money was spent on luxuries and to think Kelly won a Person of the Year award. Health Service Executive Director General Tony O'Brien has told the Public Accounts Committee last week that reading the internal audit report on Console is like reading the script of the film, Catch Me If You Can.

Edhi died aged 88 on July 8. The following day tens of thousands of people attended the state funeral for Pakistan's legendary philanthropist in Karachi where he lived in a bare room.

A courageous man Edhi was well-known for berating militant groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for their attacks on civilians, criticising the government for incompetence and corruption and denouncing the elites for dodging taxes. Edhi's foundation has provided relief in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Indonesia and in the United States after Hurricane Katrina.

Called a 'living saint and 'Pakistan's Mother Teresa', his legacy is amazing.

Wexford People