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.

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