Dromintee family endorses formation of new IAA charity

April 20, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

The Dromintee couple who donated almost £65,000 to the Ireland Air Ambulance (IAA) charity in memory of their late son have endorsed the recent move to reform the charity in a renewed bid to establish a helicopter emergency service in Northern Ireland.

In October 2008, Peter and Helen Fearon, helped by a committee of family, close friends and the local community, raised the money through a memorial day organised in honour of their son, Gerald, who was tragically killed in a road accident two years previously.

The IAA charity was chosen as the beneficiary of the money as the family believed an air ambulance would offer greater assistance to victims of road accidents and be instrumental in preventing further deaths from car crashes.

However, just months after the money was handed over, the charity became embroiled in allegations of mismanagement of funds when it emerged that more than 90% of donations it received were spent on wages and administration costs.

This revelation prompted the Fearons to request their donation be returned, at least until they were satisfied as to where the money was going.

Since then, Nick Taylor, an independent adviser and a director of the North West Air Ambulance charity based in Liverpool, has been appointed to examine the charity’s work.

Following months of meetings, in the past week it was agreed to dissolve the IAA association and replace it with a new company, which will, in the interim, retain the same name.  All previous trustees and directors of IAA have stood down and any assets held by the charity will be transferred to the new company.

The newly-formed company will continue with the plans to operate a helicopter emergency medical service in the north of Ireland and has recruited a board of directors with considerable business experience and cross community representation.

These committee members will give voluntarily of their time and expertise to help bring the project to fruition.

Peter Fearon, along with Aidan Rice, a close friend of Gerald’s, have both been invited to join the committee to help oversee the charity’s work in the future.  Both men have expressed their commitment to the charity and will play an active role in helping to set up the air ambulance service.

Peter says he took the decision to join the board in the hope of safeguarding the initial donation to the charity.  Now he says he has every confidence in the new committee and its vision for the future.

“If anyone can make this project work, it is this committee,” he said.

“Everyone of the committee members are totally committed to seeing an air ambulance service here.  We would not be still involved with this project if we didn’t believe there was a future with it.

“Some of the members have highly experienced backgrounds that will go a long way to restoring confidence in the charity,” he added.

The key to the charity’s future success is to secure government backing, particularly from the Department of Health.  This, Peter says, is a ‘work in progress’ but admitted that significant advancement is being made.

Roy Orr, a Northern Ireland business owner, who helped put the board together said it is fully committed to exploring the feasibility to put an emergency helicopter into service.

“The board is representative of the community and has considerable business expertise that demonstrates to our stakeholders and public that we have the credibility to deliver what is a sizeable business undertaking that will need to attract significant support and monies,” Mr Orr explained.

“The project is all about improving health care in the fields of emergency and trauma medicine and we need the public to get behind us and support what we are doing.”

Peter Fearon believes the board members have the capability and capacity to deliver the project.  And so begins the hard slog to restore public confidence and realise the dream of establishing a ‘fitting memorial’ to the memory of Gerald.