Give Me a Crash Course In . . . Glen
The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network is closing down. What’s going on there?
Yes, the charity – known by the acronym Glen – is winding up its affairs after deciding it is no longer viable. A report it commissioned by former Senator Jillian van Turnhout concluded the organisation faced insurmountable challenges on five fronts and didn’t have a future. So after almost 30 years Glen is closing its doors.
But the past three decades have seen decriminalisation of homosexuality, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage. How can a gay rights charity not be viable?
Van Turnhout concluded the organisation has been caught in “a perfect storm”. Funding has dried up, Glen has no chief executive and has lost key staff in recent years. Its financial future was also looking bleak, especially after Chuck Feeney wound up the philanthropic support that benefited Glen and so many other Irish charities over recent decades.
But what caused this storm?
Glen appointed a new executive director, Aine Duggan, last autumn. She quickly flagged concerns internally about possible financial mismanagement. The board, which appeared to be unaware of the issues up to then, agreed that the Charities Regulator should be told. A review got under way as the regulator requested and was given documentation.
What kinds of issues were involved?
Two main ones. First, Glen’s co-founder and then chairman Kieran Rose used Glen’s resources and facilities last year for an unsuccessful bid for a Seanad seat. Mr Rose ran up costs of ¤11,500, which he reimbursed. In addition, up to seven credit cards were in use, and staff used them for personal purchases. Van Turnhout described this in a later report as “a system of goodwill” for lowly-paid staff – a system that had grown up over time. She said it was “extremely poor practice” but emphasised that there was no material gain for staff and all money was repaid.
Were there other factors?
Duggan set about restructuring Glen and in January two long-serving staff members were made redundant. In March, the board appointed an investigator to look at complaints made by two staff, who had gone on sick leave, against another staff member. That report is understood to be near completion.
Over Easter, news of the difficulties within the organisation leaked. Duggan, who was stepping down but was still in place, went on radio to say the context to the irregularities included a lack of financial expertise reviewing the books. Calling for a full audit, she added: “I would like to be able to stand up and say I can absolutely 100 per cent stand over a statement that there was no misappropriation. Unfortunately I can’t do that.”
So was there misappropriation?
Absolutely not, says van Turnhout in her report. A separate report by accountant Donal Ryan says: “We did not find any evidence of misappropriation of state or donor funds or any fraudulent activity taking place”.
So everything’s alright then?
No, not really. Glen maintains it is “under review” by the regulator, rather than being the subject of an investigation, as was widely reported. The publicity has had catastrophic effects. The HSE stopped funding some projects. Rose resigned from the board. Glen had no chief executive to rebuild the organisation, and no money to employ a new boss. It remains to be seen if the Charities Regulator and, in relation to Rose’s political funding, the Standards in Public Office Commission have anything to say.
“Working together in a spirit of solidarity we have achieved much,” the charity said in its valedictory statement. “But now it is time for the baton to be passed and there is still much, much more work to be done.” But not by Glen.
Gillian Van Turnhout said the organisation Glen has been caught in “a perfect storm”