The Matt Talbot Adolescent Service treats 200 young addicts a year in Munster — but an ongoing HSE review may jeopardise its funding and its work, says Michael Clifford.

Patrick Relihan

MICHAEL CLIFFORD The Irish Examiner.

The Matt Talbot Adolescent Service treats 200 young addicts a year in Munster — but an ongoing HSE review may jeopardise its funding and its work, says Michael Clifford.

The treatment of addiction is highly complex, and doubly so when the addiction afflicts young people.

To that extent, the Matt Talbot Adolescent Service does invaluable work in the Munster region. The MTAS treats over 200 teenagers and young adults every year for addiction and related problems.

The service includes day care and educational facilities, and a residential centre that is one of the very few in the country to provide a service for adolescents.

Outwardly, the organisation has attracted many plaudits. Behind the walls of its three centres in Cork City and West Cork however, there has been much unhappiness from a growing number of employees about culture, practice and the effect this is having on clients.

The MTAS mission statement lays out its priorities. “Our belief is that the welfare of the young person in paramount; and in the dignity of all young people urges us to embrace a holistic approach and to seek to realise their full intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, cultural, and physical potential.

“We endeavour to ensure that the welfare of staff is paramount in relation to their working environment.”

An investigation by the Irish Examiner has established that a number of staff in MTAS, HSE personnel, and others aware of the workings of the agency are deeply unhappy with its current environment.

It should be stressed that there have been no findings against anybody in MTAS and a HSE “review” has not yet delivered its report.

However, the HSE has been in receipt of at least four protected disclosures from staff in recent months.

The allegations in the disclosures include:

Financial mismanagement;.

Safety concerns for clients;.

Clinical mismanagement;.


Another person is under long-term suspension in MTAS in highly unusual circumstances. And a crucial internal review, conducted by MTAS in 2016, was not furnished to the HSE over a two-year period despite repeated requests for it.

MTAS was established in 1999. It grew out of an organisation affiliated with the Catholic Church that provided services for troubled teenagers.

Through its first decade in existence it established a reputation for working with youths with addiction problems.

The seven-person board is chaired by Christy Cooney, former president of the GAA. He joined the board in October 2014 and took over as chair in June 2015. He is also a member of the board of the aid agency, Goal.

From the late 2000s until 2014, the CEO of the organisation was John Beasley, an experienced manager who had worked in the corporate world up until his retirement when he took up the role in MTAS. He was well regarded inside and outside the organisation and fulfilled the CEO role on a part-time basis three days a week.

His successor was appointed in May 2015 following an open competition for the job. Patrick Relihan is a former priest who left the priesthood the year before his appointment.

He had been a school chaplain inthe Cloyne diocese. According to his LinkedIn page, he has a diploma in applied chemistry and acquired a batchelor in theology degree, the latter from a university in Rome. Since his appointment he has also acquired a diploma in management in 2016.

Mr Relihan’s appointment coincided with plans to expand the organisation and attempt to source funding outside of the traditional funders, principally the HSE.

Attempts to contact Mr Relihan for comment about the HSE review proved unsuccessful.

Relihan as priest.

The health body contributes in the region of €1.25m per annum to MTAS, accounting for over two-thirds of total funding.

In pursuit of these plans, Mr Relihan was appointed CEO on a full-time basis, rather than the part-time status of his predecessor.

Six months after the new CEO was appointed, an organisational review of MTAS was conducted.

Among the recommendations from this was for a clinical review of the services.

The Irish Examiner understands that the individual who was involved in the former was also appointed to conduct the latter review.

One issue that the HSE is examining is whether there was a tender for the clinical review.


MON, 14 SEP, 2020 – MICHAEL CLIFFORD Irish Examiner

Staff at a Cork addiction treatment facility for teenagers which is due to close have called for the publication of a HSE investigation into the company running the facility.

A delegation of staff from the Cara Lodge facility in Enniskeane, West Cork, met with local Independent TD Michael Collins yesterday to voice their anger at how they had been treated and the manner in which the facility has been run in recent years.

At least 25 jobs are to go with the closure. 
The facility has been operating for nearly 20 years and was one of only a handful in the State to provide residential treatment to teenagers experiencing addiction problems. 

It was run by the Matt Talbot Adolescent Service (MTAS), which has been mired in controversy in recent years and funded largely by the HSE.

“The life has been drained out of that place gradually,” Mr Collins said. “The staff were given false hope that a new model of service would be provided from there but then they were just told during the week that it was closing.

“A report into the centre was done and I and the staff want to know why that hasn’t been published.
They can’t turn around now and say that people today aren’t having the same problems. 

In a statement issued by the HSE and the MTAS to the Irish Examiner last week, it was noted that referrals to the centre had “decreased by over 50% between 2015 and 2019. 

“Any reduction in the referrals of children to residential services is to be welcomed,” the statement said.

However, according to separate sources working in the area, the fall-off in referrals had nothing to do with demand but was a result of reluctance to refer to MTAS due to controversies around the charity.
At least four protected disclosures from staff and former staff had been submitted to the HSE, alleging mismanagement in various ways. 

An investigation undertaken by the HSE into these and other aspects of the running of the charity was due to be published last November but will not now be published in any form.


We remember Patrick Relihan from his dsys in the Irish College in Rome and his days as assistant vocations director of Cloyne.

He was a protege of Bishop John Magee.

Apparently, he is also looked on with favour by the current bishop Willie Crean.

He certainly landed on his feet after he left the priesthood and was looked after by the church.

He married an older lady teacher from the school where he was chaplain.

I think Patrick is the possessor of much information. He knows where the bodies are buried.

These are startling allegations against the charity.

Financial mismanagement;.

Safety concerns for clients;.

Clinical mismanagement;.


The Irish Examiner is following the story.

To be continued…………….