TV3 chiefs refuse to hand over search cash
by STEPHEN MAGUIRE
Almost EUR25,000 was donated by broken-hearted viewers after the station launched its own appeal in June to raise cash to help find the toddler.
But the cash has since remained untouched in TV3's Madeleine McCann fund bank account in AIB headquarters in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
TV3 is now refusing to pass on the cash to the official Madeleine's Fund set up by her parents - because it is not a recognised charity.
And a spokesman for TV3 also admitted the cash raised may never go towards the fund.
He revealed: "It is the intention of TV3 to hold the funds in the account until a properly registered and recognised charity for Madeleine McCann is established.
"If such a charity is not established TV3 will either donate the funds to a registered charity in the area of child abduction and protection, or we may seek the views of the donors on how to disperse the funds."
The fund, which had the backing of the entire station including presenters Lorraine Keane, Mark Cagney and Alan Hughes, was launched in a huge wave of publicity on June 1 - three weeks after Maddy, four, vanished.
It was sparked after what a spokesman for TV3 called "intense viewership interest" in the story of the little girl who disappeared from her parent's apartment in Portugal more than six months ago.
The appeal lasted eight days and featured a number of special TV bulletins dedicated to the campaign to find Madeleine.
Thousands of donations rolled in from across the country, many conscious of the fact Maddy had strong Irish connections and that her grandmother Eileen McCann is from Co Donegal.
Madeleine's disappearance also regularly featured on the station's main news bulletins.
TV3's Lorraine Keane, left, also featured at the 50-day anniversary of little Maddy's disappearance at which hundreds of yellow balloons were released.
The host said: "Like so many people I am devastated by the abduction of little Madeleine McCann.
"As a mother, I can only imagine what her parents are going through."
TV3 chiefs now face a backlash for not telling viewers the cash had been frozen and for not releasing the money so it could be used to actively help in the search.
And despite the cash freeze the TV3 Madeleine McCann Fund Account No 08632098 remains open for donations.
A spokesman for AIB said the account was still active and in a position to accept donations.
Since depositing the cash raised, EUR24,345, the fund has also built up interest which has been added to the original fund.
A TV3 spokesman added that if necessary it would consult with its viewers if station bosses decided they were not giving the cash to the Madeleine's Fund.
He said: "We may seek the views of the donors as to the most appropriate manner in which to disperse the accumulated funds.
"TV3 will act in accordance with best practice in the circumstances."
Madeleine's Fund has so far raised E1.57million since it was set up.
The fund - formally called Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Ltd - is not a registered charity but a not-for-profit company because its scope is not wide enough to get charity status.