I am sure the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, will agree with me that over the past number of weeks the whole country has been saddened and shocked at the continuous stream of revelations emerging from the national suicide charity, Console, and how it was being run by its former CEO.
The interim CEO, Mr. David Hall, has described what was going on as a tactical and considered web of deceit and a prolonged abuse of public trust and public moneys. It is indeed a betrayal of the trust of those who volunteered their time to raise money for Console, those who donated to it and the staff who provided essential services. Most of all it is a betrayal of the trust of those who depend on the vital services that Console has been providing. The real risk is that people will get tired of the ongoing stream of revelations from the charitable sector, with an inevitable impact on donations. That would be the real tragedy.
In the case of Console, as I understand it, the staff are owed €86,000. This morning's Irish Examiner reports David Hall as saying: "The HSE haven't met with me in the two weeks since this happened. A meeting has been promised with Ministers Harris and McEntee but nothing happened, no meeting, no solutions, nothing." It is now two weeks after the RTE Investigates programme on Console. I understand that, following Mr. Hall essentially putting a bomb under the HSE and the Department last night, a meeting has taken place this morning with the chief financial officer of the HSE, Department of Health officials, ministerial advisers and the charities regulator. He has put a proposal to protect the services that Console is providing.
Let us remember that this is all about a helpline for people who are going through a very difficult time in their lives and may have suicidal tendencies. It is about providing counselling services for those who have been bereaved when a loved one has taken their own life through suicide. It is also about protecting outreach supports. Last year alone, over 5,500 individual counselling sessions were provided by staff members of Console.
Will the Minister give a commitment that the essential services Console has been providing, and continues to provide under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, will be protected and will continue to be provided? Can the Minister give an assurance that the 12 full-time staff and 60 part-time staff who are collectively owed €86,000 will also be protected?
I want to know where this goes from here. There has been a lack of political leadership on this issue. Not a single Government Minister has picked up the phone to ring David Hall or speak to Console's staff in the past two weeks since these astounding revelations were aired by RTE. That is despite the fact that the Minister would have had these revelations for a number of months in the form of the HSE audit report.