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Nothing, it seems, will lose you public funding if you are TENI

The ability of a controversial transgender group to retain state funding despite persistent failures to submit accounts, and other governance and compliance issues, should raise serious questions about decision-making around the dispersal of taxpayer monies.

The Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) has managed to retain its generous grant funding from the HSE – that is, from you, the hard-pressed taxpayer – despite failing to produce audited financial accounts for three years in a row.

Questions asked by Carol Nolan TD revealed the timeline of TENI’s failings – and the extraordinary leeway that seems to be granted by the HSE to an organisation which has not only had serious questions around its accounts, but which has also come under fire for the behaviour of employee towards senior medical professionals concerned about children’s safety.

How much money are we talking about? Very considerable sums.

In 2019, TENI managed to pull some €470,000 into the pot, with most of that coming from the taxpayer from various sources ie the HSE, the Dormant Accounts fund – and through Rethink Ireland etc. In 2021, their income was almost €508,000, again with the most coming from public funds.

(This is how Ireland works now: the government gives great wads of your cash to various NGOs who give it to all the causes that tick their diversity and inclusivity boxes, while in the real world sick children languish for years on lists waiting for essential operations for conditions like scoliosis.)

A very significant amount of the money raised in 2019, just as in 2018, went on wages, and pensions for employees, and conferences and travel and entertainment – but despite spending more than €50,000 in that year on legal and consultancy and accountancy fees, TENI were unable to submit audited accounts to the HSE.

Not that it did them any harm. Their taxpayer funding from the HSE’s suicide prevention office more than tripled from 2020 to 2021.

When the HSE decides to give public funding to an agency, a service level agreement (SLA) is made, and one of the binding commitments in SLAs is that governance and compliance matters are rigorously adhered to.

Was TENI held to the same standard? The response given to Carol Nolan suggests not. The HSE says:

“Through ongoing regular consultation with TENI, the HSE noted a number of governance and compliance issues in the context of commitments in their SLA,” the response reads.

“These included non-adherence to timelines and requirements for financial reporting as per their SLAs, failure to submit audited accounts for 2019 and 2020 in a timely manner, and failure to recruit a Chief Executive Officer for the organisation.

“As a result, from 1 April 2022 to 31 May 2022, funding to TENI was suspended.”

But the suspension didn’t last.

The HSE says that it met with TENI in June 2022, and that because audited accounts (now years late) had finally been submitted, and a new CEO recruited, “it was agreed that funding would be reinstated.”

However, TENI then failed to submit audited accounts for 2021.

Now, it has to be understood that we are not talking about some local sports club with stretched volunteers attempting to manage book-keeping on top of coaching and everything else.

This is an organisation with a fashionable cause that has been given millions of euro in taxpayers’ monies – including money to pay for accounting and auditing and legal costs.

Yet they kept failing to produce audited financial statements.

After TENI failed to make the 2021 accounts available, the HSE said that “no payment was made on 1 October 2022 and an urgent meeting between the HSE and TENI
was called. Later in October 2022, TENI provided the signed annual financial statement and a plan for the review of organisational governance, particularly with regard to financial governance. All documentation was reviewed by the HSE and a decision was made to reinstate funding in November 2022.”

So an organisation fails to provide timely audited accounts for three years in a row and the HSE just suspends funding for a month or two? This seems like the opposite of good practice.

And the TENI tale gets curiouser and curiouser.

The Sunday Times reported last year that TENI had to admit that, in their 2017 accounts, consultancy payments to a total of €6,000 were made to two TENI directors and were not disclosed in the financial statements of that year.

One of the peculiar aspects of the delay with TENI’s financial accounts was that the body’s Chair, Sara Phillips, was listed on their website as being a “chartered accountant”, and would have therefore been, one imagines, more familiar than most with the obligations to file accounts.

But in May 2022 it was disclosed “that Chartered Accountants Ireland said it had no Sara Phillips on its register”. TENI then deleted the biography for Phillips from its website.

These can all seem like minor matters, in some respects, when contrasted with the harm that transgender activists may be visiting on vulnerable children, in particular, by insisting on pushing ‘gender affirmative’ ideology in education, in medical practise, and elsewhere.

As is now emerging in the Tavistock scandal in Britain, too many children were rushed into a sex-change treatment path without care being given to other conditions or circumstances likely impacting their dysphoria.

Take, for example, the2021 guidelines issued by the Irish College of General Practitioners, which took material – sometimes in word-for-word sections – from TENI documents, and which described puberty blockers as “reversible interventions”.

As my colleague Gary Kavanagh wrote the ICGP made:

“no note about the research limitations in this area or the growing concerns regarding this claim. The NHS, for instances, had previously claimed that puberty blockers were fully reversible but has now moved to say that “little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria”, that “it is not known what the psychological effects may be”, and that “it’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.”

Following Gript’s investigation, the ICGP removed the guidelines, but TENI’s influence continued to drive changes in organisations as diverse as the INTO and IBEC.

In fact, its funding is largely based on its mission to provide training to schools and HSE staff on transgender issues – though no-one seems to question whether that training is medically or scientifically sound.

Journalist Mark Tighe broke a story which should have set off alarm bells everywhere, since it essentially revealed that TENI staff and members were engaging in a war of words on social media with medical experts from the National Gender Service. (Doctors at the NGS had expressed concern at the insistence of adopting a ‘gender-affirmative’ model with children.)

“Shoshanna Éirénne Carroll, Teni’s former CEO who resigned last year, accused the NGS of behaving criminally by denying her surgery. She said it had a “phobic” leadership,” Tighe revealed.

“Keeva Lilith Ferreyra-Carroll, Teni’s national community development officer, has tweeted that the NGS accused her of libel for posting about her experiences, and said it cut off professional relations with Teni.”

None of this seems to matter. TENI it seems, can issue misleading guidelines, publicly attack medical experts, fail to submit accounts on time year after year, but its funding isn’t stopped – it’s increased.

As the old maxim states, it’s easy to be generous with other people’s money. But surely, even with this gender-obsessed government, there should be a limit?

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