GLEN announced today that it will be winding down, while a report says there was no misappropriation of funds or fraudulent activity.
A month after controversy alleging financial mismanagement and misappropriation of funds arose, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) has announced it will cease operations, according to the Irish Times.
A report by former senator Jillian van Turnhout, commissioned by the board of GLEN, finds that the organisaion is “no longer viable given the challenges it is facing”.
The report says that GLEN was caught in “a perfect storm” following the controversy that erupted at Easter, when the charity’s then executive director Aine Duggan revealed she became aware of grave issues, citing spending on credit cards and on a political campaign.
With diminishing public trust, minimal financial reserves, no chief executive and reduced staffing, the board of GLEN has decided to make arrangements for “an orderly wind-up”.
In an opinion piece, GCN’s Editor, Brian Finnegan, heralds today as a bad day for LGBT people in Ireland while exploring the GLEN journey from it’s inception in 1988 until now.
According to van Turnhout’s report, at critical junctures Glen failed to heed or fully understand the warning signs in terms of corporate governance. “The environment for not-for-profits is ever changing. What was standard practice for many organisations 20, 10 or even five years ago is no longer acceptable,” van Turnhout wrote.
Last December, after Duggan raised concerns of potential breaches of the Charities Act, the board then instructed her to make a voluntary disclosure to the Charities Regulator.
GLEN has fully co-operated with the regulator, van Turnout’s report says, however, the perception that it was under investigation by the regulator led to a “diminishing of trust” by the public and funders.
A separate report into the financial administration of the charity concluded “we did not find any evidence of misappropriation of State or donor funds or any fraudulent activity taking place”.
Although GLEN is winding down, its LGBT helpline is to be established as a separate entity, and new partners are being sought to run its diversity programme and the Know How rapid HIV testing project. The charity’s three remaining staff are being made redundant.
GLEN was founded in 1988, five years before homosexuality was decriminalised. It counts the introduction of civil partnerships and, later, same-sex marriage as milestones on the “equality journey” for gay people.
GLEN published an official statement this morning on their Facebook page:
Statement from the board of GLEN
After considerable discussion the board of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) has today formally decided to put in place arrangements for an orderly wind up of the organisation.
The board is seeking to ensure that services provided by GLEN will be provided by other organisations and agencies. The timetable for completion of the wind-up will be determined by the successful and timely transfer of these projects.
GLEN was established in 1988 and has a proud record of achievement in serving the LGBTI community. We have delivered not just a range of services; we have also helped radically reshape the lives of LGBTI people through the achievement of progressive social change, culminating in the successful Marriage Equality campaign in 2015.
Now, following a comprehensive external review of the operation of GLEN the board has reluctantly concluded that we do not currently have the organisational capacity or funding to continue our work to the high standard to which we have always aspired.
The only reason why GLEN exists is to serve the best interests of the LGBTI community. We believe that the needs of the community can best be met by the transfer of key services to other agencies as soon as possible.
In the absence of external financial support GLEN cannot continue to employ staff and we have therefore been forced to serve redundancy notice on three employees. This is a decision we have not taken lightly and have deferred for as long as possible.
The board has taken into consideration the views of external consultant, Jillian van Turnhout and is grateful to Jillian for her guidance.
We have also conducted a financial examination of the organisation and have concluded that it is not possible to return GLEN to full, financial viability while maintaining existing services.
The post of Executive Director is currently vacant and any recovery plan would have to be led by a full-time executive director. Obviously given our current situation we are not in a position to make such an appointment.
In late 2016 and early 2017 the then former Executive Director brought concerns surrounding the use of credit cards to the Board. Consequently, the board instructed the then Executive Director to make a voluntary disclosure regarding our concerns at a suspected breach of corporate governance rules.
On foot of this voluntary disclosure, the organisation is currently being reviewed by the Charities Regulator.
The board is fully co-operating with the Charities Regulator review and has provided all necessary information requested to date.
We wish to note that the organisation is under review by the Charities Regulator. No investigation has been commenced by the Charities Regulator, as has been incorrectly reported in the media.
The board has provided the Charities Regulator with a copy of the recommendations of Jillian van Turnhout. It is an independent report and is included as an appendix to this statement.
We have accepted the recommendations of Ms van Turnhout and thank her for her work.
In her report, Ms van Turnhout notes that the separate financial review of GLEN’s finances commissioned by the charity and being supplied to the Charities Regulator, state “”we did not find any evidence of misappropriation of state or donors funds or any fraudulent activity taking place”.
GLEN has relied on the goodwill, co-operation and funding of various statutory agencies without whom our work in the area of health, education, welfare and policy reform would not have been possible. We would like to thank them for their invaluable support.
We would like to thank the ongoing support of the LGBTI community.
Working together in a spirit of solidarity we have achieved much.
But now it is time for the baton to be passed and there is still much, much more work to be done.
18 May 2017
GLEN was founded in 1988, from which time has been committed to securing the legislative changes needed to bring equality to the LGBTI community in Ireland. From 1988 through to 1997, GLEN was a voluntary association, relying on the hard work and dedication of volunteers to achieve change. In 2005, GLEN became a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Registered Charity.
Over the years, GLEN has played a pivotal role in tackling the discrimination that was faced by the LGBTI community. The significant legislative progress has been achieved in tandem with GLEN’s focus on achieving inclusion for LGBTI people in every aspect of their lives.
The Equality Journey
GLEN has worked for many years to ensure equality for LGBTI people in Ireland. There have been many milestones along the equality journey which have led to positive change for the LGBTI community in Ireland.
Some of the major milestones are listed below:
• Ireland’s first Gay Pride festival took place (1983)
• GLEN was founded (1988)
• Foundation of the “Campaign for Equality” (1991)
• Decriminalisation of homosexuality (1993)
• Employment Equality Act (1998) passed to ensure employment protections
• The Equal Status Act (2000) prohibited discrimination on 9 grounds in the provision of goods, services and accommodation
• The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligation of Cohabitants Act (2010) to recognise civil partnerships of same sex couples
• The Marriage Act (2015) to allow same sex couples to marry
• The Gender Recognition Act (2015) to recognise self-declaration of gender
• The Children and Family Relationships Bill (2015)
• Lifetime ban of blood donation by men who have sex with men lifted (2017)