Saturday, February 27, 2010

Opposition politicians once again question Government Minister in Dail Eireann on crisis ridden Irish Red Cross

On 24th February 2010 opposition politicians, for the second time in a number of weeks, questioned a government minister on the ongoing governance and financial problems at the Irish Red Cross. Politicians from both Fine Gael and Labour raised a number of issues during question time. Minister Pat Carey answered the questions on behalf of the Taoiseach who has taken over the Ministry of Defence since the former Minister Wille O' Dea, resigned two weeks ago.

This blog has mixed views on the situation. Relief that the decades long governance crisis which has severely damaged the Irish Red Cross is finally being addressed at the highest levels, mixed with deep embarrassment that the organisation's endemic problems are now on the desk of the country's Prime Minister. The extent of the organisation's crisis is reflected in the fact that in the last week or so the Taoiseach's representative, Minister Carey, has had to answer questions on the Irish Red Cross, politicians from the country's two main opposition parties continue to express their concern about the welfare of the Irish Red Cross, Fine Gael issued a press release calling for an independent government enquiry into the Irish Red Cross and RTE News covered all events on its bulletins.

In his questioning Deputy Deenihan explained that existing legislation governing the Irish Red Cross allows the government to intervene directly in the organisation's affairs when there is an obvious need to do so. If ever there was a time for direct intervention now is it. Deputy Deenihan went on to say '...Does the Minister not consider it a cause for concern that in the past six months three Government appointees and one Government employee have resigned from the Irish Red Cross Society? They are distinguished people: Mr. David Andrews, Judge Rory McCabe, barrister Ms Jenny Bulbulia and a highly respected civil servant whom all Members have encountered in the course of his work, Mr. John Roycroft. This is surely worthy of investigation. I call on the Taoiseach, who is now acting Minister of Defence, to initiate such an investigation immediately. It could be conducted by a high ranking official of his Department or of the Department of Defence, but it must be done' .

Deputy Brian O'Shea, Labour Party Spokesperson on Defence asked the Minister why the delay in appointing a new Chairperson to the Irish Red Cross following the resignation of David Andrews at the end of 2009. Deputy O'Shea stated '....My concern is that there is a need for a Chairperson who can do the job and grasp the issues which have to be addressed in the Society. No matter how good the person is, unless the governance framework is in place this cannot happen. It seems to me that what the Minister of State outlined, namely, the number of consultations which are taking place, that this process will go on forever. This is not good enough. This matter needs to be urgently addressed'.

This blog has been informed by long serving members that a 'governance reform' process has been underway since 1999. Any true reform has been and continues to be blocked by vested interests on the Executive Committee, who, if effective reform is introduced, will be required to immediately step down. Management over the years, despite many valiant efforts by former Secretary Generals, most of whom were eventually fired for their efforts, have been unable to reform the organisation at the highest levels. In relation to the current senior management team one well placed Central Council member stated 'the incumbent senior managers appear paralysed with fear and have failed to openly and on record seek reform and change. While such inaction is hardly admirable given the organisation's record of firing those who speak out it is probably understandable'.

This blog is now asking for the genuine assistance of Minister Carey and the Taoiseach's office. Minister Carey has a reputation for being a fair and committed politician. The Irish Red Cross needs his active intervention in order to arrest the continuing decline of the organisation.

On a separate matter:

This blog has been asked to comment on the firing of the Community Services Officer, which took place in January. It took some time to gather the necessary information but from speaking with members who are familiar with the Community Services activities of the Irish Red Cross it seems the general consensus reported to the blog is that the Community Services Officer was fired because she has a history of speaking out and requesting reform. Also it appears the highly regarded Community Services activities were seen as a threat to First Aid training activities and as has happened before to the Youth Department when its activities began to develop and expand, the Community Services Department was shut down. Members this blog spoke to described the Community Services Officer as one of the most pleasant, committed and passionate head office staff members, a true asset to the organisation. One member stated 'we are still shocked and upset with this decision, it makes no sense but we know it was an act of vindictiveness and we will be looking to have a full explanation on the decision through the appropriate channels'. We have also been told that the Community Services Officer was treated in a disgraceful manner by the Acting Secretary General just two days before Christmas, something which caused fury amongst head office staff and members alike. According to one member 'this matter is far from closed as no Red Cross person, whether volunteer, member or staff will be treated like this. In time it will be addressed'

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