Paved With Gold Intentions


Homeless and housing charity empires have sprung up in the last 20 years without any proper independent oversight and governance, says Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn (above)

In a no-holds-barred polemic, Independent Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn, writing in Village (full article at link below), takes on the homelessness ‘industry’….

‘…The Peter Mc Verry Trust, Focus Ireland, The Simon community, De Paul and the myriad approved housing bodies are worth tens of millions. With tens of millions on deposit.

Not-for-profit does not indicate non-commercial. Scandalously, homelessness is a business like any other, except when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Many of these entities have become fiefs in competition with each other for clients and real estate. One is reminded of the residential institutions and their greed to fill their institutions with the poor in order to make money per head

Homeless and housing charity empires have sprung up in the last 20 years without any proper independent oversight and governance. Vast sums of money and sprawling assets are under the control of these untouchables. What’s at play here is agency-capture as worthy intentions get corrupted by entanglements with conservative bureaucracy.

The saying goes that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. It was a byword for many of our grandest institutions like the Catholic Church.

…The CEOs of these institutions, the supposed charities, are on top dollar.

They control huge resources and operate like corporations. In 2016 Ashley Balbirnie, CEO of Focus Ireland, drew a €115,000 salary for overseeing 327 staff with revenue of €19,596,418 in 2014. Kerry Anthony, CEO of Depaul Ireland, drew an €82,831 salary for overseeing, including in Northern Ireland, 325 staff and revenue of €12,923,195. Joyce Loughnan of Focus Ireland was drawing €125,000 in 2013. In 2014, Dublin Simon’s chief executive, Sam McGuinness, was on a salary of €93,338.

A 2018 survey by the Wheel suggested of all charities the homelessness ones paid their CEOs the most, with average salaries of over €80,000.

…According to the Irish Times, in 2014 staff costs at the four main homeless agencies in the city absorbed all funds, and more, granted them by the State for the provision of homelessness services.

Dublin Simon, the Peter McVerry Trust, Depaul Ireland and Focus Ireland received a total of €33.6 million in grants from State agencies in 2014, but spent €35.8 million on staff costs on the 875 people they employed in 2014.

…As the canal banks fill up with tents and the footpaths with sleeping bags with no end of hand-wringing, anyone can slap on a hi-vis jacket and call themselves an outreach worker. Within a short space of time they can elevate themselves to becoming senior executives, or their own CEO…

Agency Capture Part 1: Homelessness (Mannix Flynn, Village)


46 thoughts on “Paved With Gold Intentions

  1. Rob_G

    I don’t often agree with Mannix Flynn, but he is right on the money here. Surely a city the size of Dublin does not more than 20 separate homeless organistions, with 20 CEOs, 20 boards of directors, 20 marketing depts and 20 separate marketing budgets, and so on… There must be a way of finding some synergies there to better serve their constituency.

    1. DeSelby

      I used to work in a homeless charity (10+ years) and I have been saying this exact thing. Why does an institution dealing with homelessness even have a marketing division? All these departments (IT, Marketing, board, etc. etc.) working independently, it’s crazy.

      Management in these agencies are more concerned with increasing their property portfolio than the humanitarian task at hand. The head of finance in my agency once described his role as “Head of Portfolio Management” (with his chest all puffed out in pride) when describing his job.

      Like you, I rarely agree with Manix, but even a stopped clock, right?

    2. Janet, dreams of big guns

      yep it’s bull, I’d say the same for the cancer charities, a lot of people make money out of others misery there, it really should be covered by the health department.

    3. yupyup

      +1, and I feel it applies to the wider charity sector/industry. How many mental health charities do we have? I’m not questioning the good intentions that are there but it does seem like an awful waste. The memories of the Console controversy still linger for me too.

    4. realPolithicks

      Why does the Irish government use private charities to provide so many services to people which should actually be provided by the government?

      1. Kolmo

        ideological reasons – let the morket sort it out..society is nothing but a balance sheet to them…until it impedes into their lives…

    5. Harry

      I do as well and I have known him for years

      He of course spent half his life at the mercy of Ireland’s charity
      Watch a country with no god

      Such daemons he faught

  2. george

    Maybe if local government did a better job of providing housing then there wouldn’t be such an over-reliance on charities. Did the Councilor think of that?

    1. frank

      Maybe if the tens of millions paid to the charities in state grants were paid to the local authorities they could provide housing. Did you not think of that?

      1. newsjustin

        I think, in many cases, Local Authorities, are content to have these charities at arms length.

        Cllr Flynn makes excellent points here.

        1. Donal

          Well then the question is, who decided to finance the growth of charities at the loss to councils of control over their own patch? I think you’ll find it wasn’t the councils themselves

          1. Rob_G

            Twice in the past five years, DCC has voted to defund itself – hard to conceive how they could take greater responsibility in the area of housing if they keep defanging themselves in this way.

  3. JEH

    If the funds issues by the state are completely absorbed by staffing needs alone, that may say more about the allocation of funds and the governments response than it does about “greedy, profiteering” charity CEOs.

    80-120k is absolutely a great salary (might even be able to move out of a bedsit on that), but let’s be real, find one role in the private sector where managing 100s of employees doesn’t get you well beyond that. It’s not obscene for such a role. If you tell me someone in a call center is on 100k, sure, let’s talk.

    1. Rob_G

      I don’t disagree, but why do we need 20 such CEOs (plus all the of the other administrative staff) dealing with same issue?

      1. Oh...

        Two things here, if you’re getting 100k on revenue of 19 million you’d be making a lot more doing the same thing in a purely commercial entity, is consider that low on a comparative basis and it indictates significant fundraising ability.

        Secondly however I also agree that there shouldn’t be 20 such organisations, there should be 0. The duty of a government should be to take care of its population, particularly the vulnerable cohort in question here. That they exist at all indicates an abdication of such responsibility.

        1. JEH

          Totally agree. 20 is insane. There shouldn’t be any concept of “free market competition” in a charity space. I know that Focus Ireland (we do a lot of work with them in my office) is geared towards family homelessness specifically and not just “homelessness” as a catchall for anyone on the street–whereas Dublin Simon may have a broader mission statement–but I don’t think there’s a need for 10 or 20 hyper-specific homelessness sub-categories.

          Having so many different charities also means that their “marketing” and fund-raising campaigns are competing with eachother rather than using their funds to promote a general message and awareness. Homelessness and charity in general should not need to be industrialized. If you reach that point, something has gone seriously, tragically wrong.

  4. Brian

    I would agree with Rob_G that there is possibly a case to look at potential overlap among charities (not just in the homeless sector). In a n ideal world homeless services would be provided directly or made redundant by state bodies.
    However, Mannix is being his usual cranky self.
    – Given the numbers of staff and the amount of money involved the salaries he quotes don’t seem excessive to me.
    – Most of the larger charities are set up as companies and must be registered with the Charities Regulator so have full accountability and transparency on that front – financial details are easily accessible as Mannix has proved.
    – Charities are not meant to hold large sums of cash on deposit – unless it is for a specific purpose. Given that many homeless charities are involved purchasing, maintaining, and upkeeping properties then it seems reasonable to hold money on deposit (to buy suitable property for example).
    – If Mannix has a complaint about a charity they should direct it to the Charities Regulator.

    No system is perfect but if Mannix, as a Councillor, offered actual solutions to homelessness himself (instead of complaining about homeless shelters) I might take him more seriously.

  5. Lilly

    ‘Kerry Anthony, CEO of Depaul Ireland, drew an €82,831 salary for overseeing, including in Northern Ireland, 325 staff and revenue of €12,923,195.’

    Oh come on, are you seriously saying this salary is excessive for this job? Lots of valid points, although I seriously doubt Peter McVerry is in it for the money.

    1. Harry

      Dam right
      3times the industrial average wage

      All these directors should do it for the betterment of society and I bet there are thousands of retired executives that would do it expenses only as a return for how successful they were in their working life

      I would in a second and use 40 years running a successful business as my blueprint To ensure the maximum goes to what the charity is about

  6. broadbag

    They should be amalgamated and streamlined, but that would involve govt intervention and they’d almost certainly cock it up and create a bloated inefficient monster. There’s no doubt they do great work but they could achieve so much more if they pooled their resources and reduced their wage and other costs. How many assisted living beds could have been provided with the money wasted over the years on them all ploughing a lone furrow?

  7. Joe

    If successive FFG governments ended the disgusting outsourcing and caring of all of its homeless citizens to private enterprise charities, the pigs at the trough slurping up money would end overnight. It’s time for change. Fair play to Mannix for once again telling it like it is.

  8. Junkface

    The paragraph on the salaries the CEO’s of these homeless charities draw down is shocking! That is crazy money, ethically it seems very wrong. There is definitely too many of these charities too for a country like Ireland.

    1. newsjustin

      In one sense, yes. But 80-100k for managing a couple of hundred staff clearly is not excessive in the general scheme of things.

      1. JEH

        Yeah, exactly, on face value it is a lot of money, but when you look at what’s involved with the job, it’s definitely not something anyone off the street can do. If you’re able to competently and effectively manage a few 100 people, I’d reckon you’d be easily able to manage at least a 10+ people in a professional setting (setting an extremely low floor for effect). In a corporate setting, that’s at the very least junior/middle management, which you would think would draw at a bare minimum 60k+.

        The point is, if the appearance is that these charity CEOs are chasing bank notes, they’d do much better for their bank accounts exploring the corporate world where the ability to manage 100s would be handsomely compensated.

      2. Harry

        Maybe in the public sector
        But life in the real world Of the private sector it is result and profit
        If targets are not met it’s bye bye job

  9. R. Tressell

    Imagine the duplication of resources! If only there was a centralised system under democratic control that could raise taxes and pay for social housing without recourse to this inefficient bloated right wing charity solution. It’s like a return to Dickensian alms giving robbing citizens of their pride and self respect.

  10. diddy

    some of those salaries are not excessive. what is excessive is homeless begging. bear in mind they start the week with a €203 jobs seekers payment and a subsided if not free hostel bed.

    1. george

      Do they actually get jobseekers though or are you just making that up? In February there was a court finding that there wasn’t “any appropriate process in place for determining a Jobseekers Allowance application by a homeless woman”.

      The woman was refused in 2016. Most homeless people won’t be able to take a court case or wait 4 years.

  11. AKA Frilly Keane

    Highlighting the salaries is just blood in the water

    And while ye’re all savaging it
    The real decision makers are sailing off
    And pointing the finger

    They’ve gone and created an entire ‘underclass’ of vested interests
    All more interested in maintaining their own six figure status quo (with PR & Marketing depts to make sure of it)
    Than actually calling out and challenging
    And demanding change
    Or even coming up with a strategy for change between them all

    And btw
    These vested interests are in direct competition with each other for funds
    That’s their main activity and concern
    – making sure the other charities don’t out grow and out preform them
    Or Get a Minister’s attention
    Or even squeeze a buck more than them out it all

    They’re all Gaming the System

      1. AKA Frilly Keane

        no it wouldn’t

        t’ would only make the sector even more shabby, shady and self serving
        When there is still a lot they do right

        Said this years ago in a former FK column

        Feck the Regulator, that’s just another Government diddled Quango stuffed with ridiculous job titles, pay grades, perks and pensions

        Put the regulation of Charities into the hands of the Central Bank
        And the enforcement of sanctions into the reach of CAB/ Garda Financial Crime Unit – if they have to

    1. Cory

      They are gaming the system. I used to work for a cultural charity, a little museum if you will. The director was making 90 grand a year, the vice director was making similar, and the rest of us were earning peanuts. There was a tiny staff. The whole charity industry needs to be massively overhauled. Some people are making huge amounts from the ‘charitable’ sector.

      1. Otis Blue

        There’s definitely a ‘poverty industry’ in Ireland which attracts a fair few chancers.

        Generally speaking, the Constitution of a legal entity with charitable status, will explicitly prohibit remuneration paid to directors. If you believe otherwise to be the case, it’s worth checking the Constitution and financial accounts uploaded to and

        1. Cory

          The board of directors members of a charity cannot be paid. But the people running day to day activities, the directors of operation, can be paid. In my museum experience, this operational director and vice director were paid very well. Over 90 grand for the operational director.

  12. Eoineyo

    The rise in the amount of charities lies solely with the government, just like every other public service they have outsourced their responsibilities. No genuine housing charity is going to refuse funding when their goal is to end homelessness and if millions of euro are given to you, you have a responsibility to look after that money which requires qualified professionals that need proper rates of pay, otherwise you don’t get quality (obviously our TD’s are the exception to that rule).
    The government needs to take back their responsibility for homelessness and housing, for employment, for household waste, for public transport, for the water supply, for heath and every other public service that they outsourced and turned into a profit making industry, stop converting taxes into private profits it is slowly killing and choking society and leads to shitty jobs, less tax and more hand outs.

    1. Cian

      don’t forget education – mostly (fully?) outsourced to the churches (and upstarts like Educate Together);
      and 2/3 of the acute hospitals;
      and the all the dentists/GPs

  13. RuilleBuille

    It would be more in his line to oppose the central governments crippling of local authorities.Something he has refused to do during his years on the council.

  14. Chucky R. Law

    The definition of homeless has expanded from referring to rough sleepers, many with addiction or mental health issues, to now include pretty much anyone on a council/affordable housing waiting list, and the charity industry has expanded accordingly to lap up money from everywhere.

    1. Eoineyo

      Ireland has one of the tightest conditions to define homelessness in the EU, so when Leo stands up unchallenged and says there are 20,000 people homeless in NI he is correct but in NI if you are sleeping on a friends couch your are counted as homeless, in the Republic you literally have to have no where to go or sleep to be homeless, in fact rough sleepers are not included in the figures because rather then try to solve the problem FG decided just to change the criteria.

  15. Kolmo

    At what stage does all the ideological outsourcing of government services reach the actual government? Can we then disband the government and outsource it to the lowest bidder? Minimum wage TD’s, cheaper advisors, drivers, senior civil servants, all terms and conditions of employment wiped away, de-unionised, 60 hours a week, slowly replace public servants with agency bureaucrats from other (malleable, cheaper) jurisdictions (a la Irish Ferries) – when does it become a nonsense idea?

  16. Gabby

    How many homeless people have all these homeless charities given homes to during the past ten years? What percentage of all the grants and donations they received was spent on providing those homes? I think investigative journalists should seek out that kind of information and publish it.

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