Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Floods Crisis-Irish Red Cross Governance and Management Problems Affect Its Ability To Respond

The Irish Red Cross is generally a highly trusted and well regarded organisation in Ireland. This is primarily down to the power of the Red Cross emblem, one that generates universal feelings of hope, safety, confidence and trust. In addition the Irish Red Cross has a proud and deserved reputation, earned over the last seventy years, for providing much needed humanitarian assistance, first aid and community services both in Ireland and overseas. The organisation has, however, seriously under performed and deteriorated over the last twenty years. Much of the blame for this rests with a poorly skilled, visionless and highly parochial governing Board, a number of whose members have served for much of the last two decades and absolutely refuse to step down. As a result the Irish Red Cross was and remains hopelessly unprepared to appropriately respond to the floods crisis that afflicted much of the west and south of Ireland during November 2009. Despite this the Irish Red Cross has openly and actively presented itself to the Irish public as an effective and capable responder to the crisis. The Irish public has reacted, as it always does to such situations, with heartfelt generosity. This has manifested itself in nearly €800,000 in donations to the head quarters of the Irish Red Cross. As of yet it is unknown how much has been donated directly to local Irish Red Cross branches around the country. This is something that needs to be ascertained sooner rather than later so that all income received can be properly tracked and accounted for. The Irish Red Cross has encountered problems in this regard in the past, as reported by the Village Magazine in its November edition.

Two critical questions must be asked. The first is where is this money now, as we enter the first month of 2010, nearly six weeks after the disasterous floods struck? And secondly have those most in need been assisted? The answer to the first question is that virtually all of the money donated to the headquarters is sitting in a Dublin bank account belonging to the Irish Red Cross. The second question therefore answers itself. Those most in need have yet to receive a penny in assistance. This despite the Irish Red Cross pledging in early December on national television (TV3) that it planned to start disbursing money within 48 hours. The failure to honour this pledge and the continued failure of the Irish Red Cross to begin responding to the flood crisis was reported in the Village Magazine in its December 09 edition. It remains very unclear exactly when the Irish Red Cross will start to spend the money entrusted to it by the Irish public. It must also be asked if it is now too late to be of any real benefit? What can be stated with certainty though is that the Irish Red Cross' self professed ability to respond quickly and effectively to national emergencies is in fact a falsity. €800,000 sitting in a bank account for over six weeks (and presumably for many more) while hundreds of families around the country require immediate assistance smashes any illusions of competence.

Perhaps those members of the public who kindly donated some of their hard earned cash to the Irish Red Cross for the floods response need to consider asking some very direct questions as well as demanding equally straight answers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Phoenix Magazine and Village Magazine Articles criticise Irish Red Cross

Both the Phoenix Magazine and Village Magazine carried articles on the problems and ongoing crisis at the Irish Red Cross in their end of year December 2009 editions. Both articles report accurately on the situation.

Governance Reform Urgently Required at Irish Red Cross

I am a member of the Irish Red Cross and have been for many years. Major governance reform of the organisation is urgently required. Personnel change is an absolute must. I will be writing regularly on this blog concerning this matter in the coming weeks and would welcome your comments. The Irish Red Cross is now at its weakest in its 70 year history. This has been caused by a combination of disgraceful governance over twenty years and very weak management over the last two years. In 2009 there has been six highly negative but, sadly it must be said, accurate articles in various media publications about the Irish Red Cross. In addition there has been a constant series of parliamentary questions about misgoverannce and mismanagement at the Irish Red Cross in Dáil Eireann. Certain Central Council and Board members have served continuously for up to twenty years. This is terribly unhealthy. Fresh blood is immediately required. The Irish Red Cross risks terminal decline if the current power brokers on the Board are permitted to continue in their positions for much longer. The organisation also needs senior managers skilled and experienced in organisational management, strategy development, human resource management and who clearly have an understanding and commitment to the ideals, principles and values of the Red Cross Movement. The Board has recently installed an Acting Secretary General reportedly to dismantle the professional staffing capacity of the organisation although this Blog has no confirmation that this is the case. The Irish Red Cross is dominated and controlled by two or three Board members. Its time for the general membership of the organisation to wrestle back control and restore the organisation to an upward trajectory and reverse its downward spiral. Failure to do so will consign the organisation to the scrapheap of irrelevance.