Friday, April 2, 2010

Calls for new Minister of Defence to intervene immediately in Irish Red Cross crisis

Minister Kileen, Brian Cowen's new man in the Department of Defence, has so far remained silent on the crisis he is expected to deal with at the Irish Red Cross. At this early stage it can only be hoped that the silence is due to the Minister familiarising himself with the extent of the problems and working out an effective and decisive course of action. If, however, the Minister does not indicate in the near future his intentions it can only be assumed that he plans to follow the example of his predecessor and put his head firmly and deeply in the sand. The former Minister of Defence, Willie O' Dea, not only refused to do anything to address the problems in an organisation his Department contributes nearly €1 million to annually, he actually exacerbated them by re-appointing members to the Irish Red Cross Board who were and continue to be at the heart of the organisation's problems.

We are now in the fourth month without a Chairperson of the Irish Red Cross, since the departure of former Chairman, ex Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Andrews, at the end of 2009. The reasons for the Government's delay in appointing his successor remain a mystery. The leadership vacuum created by this inaction on the part of the Government and the Department of Defence in particular only serves to intensify the crisis within the Irish Red Cross. Currently the organisation has a temporary Acting Chairperson and a temporary Acting Secretary General. Not only does this send a very bad signal externally it has a very destabilising impact internally. This Blog understands that both the Acting Chairperson and Acting Secretary General will be replaced with a permanent Chairperson and a permanent Secretary General, both of whom will not be the current incumbents. The longer the delays in finalising both posts the longer the delay in any semblance of recovery at the Irish Red Cross.

All Irish Red Cross members up and down the country now know that 2009 was a disastrous year for the organisation both financially and with the nation's media. This Blog has written that while the economic environment contributed to the organisation's woes, the root cause is catastrophic governance and mismanagement as well as a scandalous waste of resources on exorbitant consultancy fees. Information this Blog has obtained would indicate that 2010 is shaping up to follow a similar pattern. This is understandable as those responsible for the 2009 calamity now hold even more senior positions than in 2010. Therefore it cannot be expected that those who put the organisation into its current crisis will be in any position to extricate the organisation from it.

While it has been difficult to get exact information it is the view of this Blog that the industrial relations environment at head office has deteriorated rapidly since the start of the year. This should be of major concern to all members around the country as the extremely negative and tense atmosphere at head office is beginning to impact the organisation's ability to function effectively. One member explained 'I understand that following the shocking treatment prior to Christmas of the highly regarded and well respected former Community Services Officer, Lydia O' Halloran, the relationship between nearly all staff and the Acting Secretary General has nose dived month on month since. There are also rumours beginning to circulate of a serious dispute over pensions, salary benefits and excessive working hours at every level but details are sketchy as staff seem too terrified to speak to anyone apart from their trade union, SIPTU'. As members we can only hope at this stage that the situation can be contained. If it continues to cause problems then as members we have a duty to instruct our Central Council representatives to demand action and more importantly to demand the necessary change. We as members must never forget that it is us and only us who can demand and insist on the long overdue change and reforms. The bottom line is if we do not make it happen it will not happen. One long serving member summed it up well ' I know many members say they want change and recognise the organisation has totally lost its way. Most are seriously ashamed that the current Acting Chairperson failed to declare an organisational bank account to head office and failed to hand over more than €150,000 of Tsunami related money for four years until the account was discovered during an internal audit. At the same time members seem to be at a loss as to what to do next. It’s actually quite simple though. Members need to assert themselves and demand the changes as otherwise the organisation they love and dedicate their lives to is in danger of becoming a national embarrassment’.

What is now required is for Minister Kileen to:

1. Immediately appoint a suitably qualified and experienced individual to the position of Chairperson of the Irish Red Cross

2. Instruct the newly appointed Chairperson to launch an immediate internal investigation into the issue of the Tipperary Bank Account and the actions of the current Acting Chairman concerning this matter

3. Instruct the newly appointed Chairperson to open the position for a permanent and properly qualified Secretary General and hire a recognised recruitment firm to oversee the screening and selection process

4. Advise the newly appointed Chairperson to hold as soon as possible an emergency General Assembly of all members as per previous Blog article.

Before concluding it is important for this Blog to state categorically that full responsibility for all of the above should not, however, rest on the shoulders of the Minister. We as members need to hold ourselves accountable for the current state of play at the organisation. We must now mobilise ourselves from our long slumber and finally take decisive action.

No comments:

Post a Comment