O’Gorman’s Folly: How Funding for Key-Issues was Diverted

Minister Roderic O'Gorman
Roderic O’Gorman’s Department diverted €1,100,000 funding originally allocated to Travellers, Migrants and Magdalene Laundry survivors to LGBTQ+ projects. 
Having frustrated our readers since last Friday week, particularly those on Twitter, we are now in a position to publish the fact that Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s Department diverted €1.1 million originally allocated to Travellers, Migrants and Magdalene Laundry survivors to LGBTQ+ projects, now that Mark Tighe has broken the story in the Sunday Independent.
M-Compass Media made a decision not to publish this story when we were briefed in February about the tranche of emails received under FOI because our traction as a new media outlet is still relatively limited.
Our response was to assist in getting a mainstream media outlet to publish the story first so that it would result in a far greater reach and a bigger reaction that should ultimately result in holding the Minister to account for signing off on these transfers.
It has taken a number of weeks to get this information into the public domain via mainstream media.
In 2021 a €350,000 underspend in the Magdalene laundry scheme, a €250,000 underspend on migration integration and a €150,000 underspend on positive action for gender equality was transferred to LGBTQ+ services with approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) as “once-off exceptional measure”.
In November 2022 €350,000 out of a fund for Travellers and Roma was transferred to LGBTQ+ projects.
The DPER noted that this amounted to 6pc of the Traveller and Roma budget and warned that it should not lead to future spending commitments.
Almost a third( €93,874 ) of the Travellers and Roma underspend was given to TENI, the charity advocating on behalf of transgender people.
In a statement shared with M-Compass Media, Aontú leader Peader Tóibín who was given the files ten days ago after previous attempts to get the story into the public domain failed says:
“These documents which I’ve seen are extremely disappointing.
I’m furious at the idea that while the government were busy apologising to Mother and Baby Home survivors and trying to convince the world that they simply didn’t have the funds to pay survivors, they were actually secretly raiding the Magdalen Scheme.
On November 15th and 16th 2021 two announcements were made by government, parish-pump type funding allocations to LGBT groups in almost every county in the country and secondly an announcement of a deeply flawed, discriminatory and unjust Mother and Baby Home redress scheme which excludes thousands of survivors from any redress payments whatsoever.”
Deputy Tóibín goes on to say:
“In the Dáil, Minister O’Gorman has repeatedly refused to explain the reasoning for this scheme, and this has caused some suspicion among those of us in the opposition benches.
What we now know is that some of the LGBT funding announced the day before the redress scheme was announced was actually taken from the budget for the Magdalen Scheme.
It is integral that we have a Dáil debate on this and that the Minister explain to Mother and Baby Home survivors who have been left without redress why he raided the Magdalen Fund to the tune of €350,000, and that he explain to the Traveling community why in 2022 he raided €354,000 of their funding.”
He needs to explain to refugees, some of whom are now homeless or living in tents, why he took €250,000 euro away from that which was set aside for the Migrant Integration Fund within the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.”
“The Minister should not have dipped into funding which was ringfenced for vulnerable groups.
Minister O’Gorman’s actions, as revealed in this correspondence, are shameful and unforgivable, especially in the context of homeless refugees, mother and baby home survivors who are approaching death without any prospect of compensation and the appalling way successive governments have abused and neglected Travellers.”
“Funding of LGBT groups should not come at the expense of other vulnerable groups of people in our society.
The attitude as exposed in these emails is extremely disappointing, especially from a Department which has ‘equality’ in its name.”
“The Minister has some very serious questions to answer here – and Aontú will be raising the matter in the Dáil at the next available opportunity.”
In May 2022, Mark Tighe reported in the Sunday Times that TENI had its grants suspended at the beginning of the previous month after it missed a March 31 deadline to file its overdue 2020 accounts.”
TENI received €1.24 million from the HSE over the previous five years.
This was a follow up to a Sunday Times report by Mark Tighe the previous March that resulted in the online biography of TENI’s long-serving chairwoman Sara Phillips being deleted from their website after the paper raised questions about her accountancy qualifications.
In March 2022 the Sunday Times revealed that TENI made payments to two directors in 2017, including almost €3,500 to Phillips, for consultancy work on a state-funded project.
TENI failed to declare the related party transactions in accounts which Phillips signed off despite the 2014 Companies Act requirement that disclosure of transactions with directors be recorded in the company’s annual accounts.
In documents sent to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the state body that funded the 2017 project, Teni claimed the payments to Phillips were for “legal expertise”.
Her biography on the TENI website, however, said she was a “chartered accountant” and not a lawyer.
When Phillips successfully sought support to get on the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) board, she emailed members describing herself as “a qualified chartered accountant” and saying that was the stepping stone on which she built her career.
The Sunday Times contacted Chartered Accountants Ireland and was informed it had no Sara Phillips on its register.
On her profile on the NWCI website, Phillips is said to have an ACCA qualification.
Chartered Accountants Ireland told the Sunday Times an ACCA qualification does not permit those graduates to describe themselves as “chartered accountants”.
Following this Sunday Times exposé, Tina Kolos Orban was appointed as TENI’s new chief executive the following month in April 2022.
Fast forward and we see that TENI issued a statement as recently as 25 October 2022 admitting that the charity had weaknesses in its accounting practices.
“TENI is aware of the concerns that have been raised around the filing of our audited accounts for 2021….TENI through our auditor is proceeding with the filing of our annual financial statements for 2021.
These will be filed before the Companies Registry Office deadline which is the 25th of November 2022. We submitted these to the HSE on Friday the 21st of October and have published our accounts for the past 4 years on our website.”
The statement goes on to say: “Alongside sending our accounts, we have also sent the HSE our plan to strengthen our governance processes. TENI will be prioritising the resourcing of our finance function and reporting in 2023.”
The statement attempted to provide reassurances that the bad old days of poor accounting practices and improper governance was in the past tense:
“TENI is still in a period of change. We are strengthening our board and looking to external experts for support. We will ensure that we focus on the improvement of our processes and structures in order to best serve the trans community into the future.”
If we delve back to the previous year, 5 November 2021 to be precise, three high profile TENI office holders resigned en-masse within 24 hours of each other, the recently appointed CEO Shoshanna Carroll, Health and Education manager Dr. Vanessa Lacey and Gordon Grehan, the Operations Manager for the charity.
In conclusion, Roderic O’Gorman signed off on diverting funding from Migrants, Travellers and Magdalen Laundry Survivors into a charity that had a proven track record in poor governance and accounting practices.
In a truly functioning democracy this would be a resigning matter for the minister.
Alas, we no longer live in a democracy where accountability is the norm rather than the exception.
To begin with, several mainstream media outlets in recent weeks refused to publish this story when the tranche of emails was submitted to them.
The function of the fourth estate, the media, is to hold power to account and this has slowed down significantly in Ireland.
Mcompass Media is not convinced that the Minister will be held to account and it’s likely that the wagons will be circled to protect him.
No doubt a bevy of media handlers and spin doctors will be deployed in the hours ahead whose function will be damage limitation.
One of the strategies likely to be used will be attempts to label questions relating to the actions of the Minister as bordering on hate speech and an attack on the transgender community.
Let’s be very clear here, these revelations have zilch to do with TENI’s activism and everything to do with its poor governance stretching back many years coupled with poor judgment on the part of a Minister in funnelling funds into a charity with a proven poor track record.
The groups from whom the funds were diverted may be slow to speak out against the Minister’s actions fearing the switching off of state funding to a trickle as an act of revenge which could leave their survival in the balance.
Does Mcompass media believe that this is a resigning matter for Minister O’Gorman?Definitely!