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More Roebuck counselling cases emerge

Irish Times/October 25, 2007
By Róisín Ingle

More cases have emerged concerning the Dublin counselling centre where clients seeking counselling were asked to pay significant sums of money upfront.

Mayo farmer Michael Kean has told The Irish Times that he was asked for €200,000 at a meeting at the Roebuck Counselling Centre which had been called to discuss his wife’s progress on a counselling training course and with her therapy.

He said he had been bombarded with phone calls and texts from Claire Hoban, a counsellor at Roebuck, in the days leading up to the meeting.

“I didn’t understand why she kept calling me because I had no connection with the centre,” he said. “But she wanted to know if I was interested in doing facilitation at the centre or a psychotherapy course. I told her I wasn’t. She then asked about the value of my land and when I challenged her about this she said I had misunderstood her.”

Mr Kean agreed to travel to Dublin with his wife Catherine, a recovering alcoholic, during Easter last year at Ms Hoban’s suggestion. “She told me it would be beneficial for my wife if I came,” he said.

He said when he went into a meeting room at Roebuck with Ms Hoban, she began asking about his financial worth and how much money he could raise in the morning.

“She said she could recognise an ability in me and that if I gave her €200,000 that myself and my wife and my children would never have any problems again,” he said.

At this point, Mr Kean left the centre, expressing his unhappiness at the situation. Ms Hoban continued to text him about raising money until he told her he would be consulting his solicitors about the matter.

Mr Kean demanded all fees paid to the centre on his wife’s behalf be returned. The fees were refunded two weeks later. “It was harder on my wife than me because she had placed all her trust in these people,” he said.

The Irish Times tried to contact the owner of the centre, Bernie Purcell, yesterday for comment but was unsuccessful. Earlier this week, she said would be giving interviews before the end of the week.

On RTÉ’s Liveline yesterday, accountant Patrick O’Hare from Co Meath has confirmed that his client Des Martin, who also dealt with Ms Hoban, paid €234,550 to the Roebuck Counselling Centre last year for “business mentoring” services.

Ms Purcell had previously stated Mr Martin got his money back straight away and denied that Ms Hoban had shared details of Mr Martin’s private life with the accountant.

Mr O’Hare said he was aware Mr Martin had tried for several months to get his money back from the centre.

He witnessed Mr Martin being given “the brush off” by Ms Hoban on the telephone. When Mr O’Hare got on the phone to Ms Hoban, he said she told him personal details of his client’s private life, that he was a recovering alcoholic and had attempted suicide in the past.

Mr O’Hare described it as “one of the strangest phone calls I have ever had in 20 years of accounting.”

He said Ms Hoban asked whether he was qualified to take over Mr Martin’s ” emotional and psychological wellbeing” and that Ms Hoban suggested giving back Mr Martin’s money could “send him over the edge.”

While there were a number of negative calls, a recovering drug addict from Ballyfermot in Dublin said he was extremely happy with the services he had received at the centre. He paid €3,300 upfront for a self-development course called “Roebuck Counselling Psychotherapy.”

It was helping him in his day-to-day life, he said.


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