Thursday, May 27, 2010

Irish Red Cross Acting Secretary General Limerick speech raises eyebrows and serious questions

In the course of a speech during the recent Irish Red Cross National First Aid Competitions held in Limerick the Acting Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross, Declan O'Sullivan, allegedly suddenly veered off script and launched into a tirade against this Blog, its authors and bemoaned at length the problems he had to deal with at headquarters such as staffing, pensions, falling income etc. A rather stunned audience reportedly did not know where to look. Reports from Limerick suggest the Acting Secretary General was told to stop by the Vice Chairman (temporarily acting as Chairman), much to the embarrassment of all in attendance.

According to the many present who witnessed the 'speech' the Blog authors were called cowards. Apparently writing the Blog is worse than keeping a secret bank account for four years with over €150,000 collected for Tsunami victims and failing to declare or release the money until an internal audit discovered it. Apparently writing the Blog is worse than intimidating, harassing, bullying and threatening staff and members. Apparently writing the Blog is worse than scandalously wasting over €300,000 in two years on one consultant alone. Apparently writing the Blog is worse than catastrophic mismanagement over the last two and a half years and gross misgovernance over the last twenty years. Perhaps, in the view of some, writing the Blog is worse than all of the above but the Blog authors do not agree.

After the 'speech' it is reported that tension was intense between the Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor, and the Acting Secretary General, Declan O'Sullivan. As one member told this Blog 'If anybody didnt previously know about the Blog's existence the Acting Secretary General's speech made sure they all know now. As you can imagine the Vice Chairman was furious because now everybody will be able to read in detail all about his disgraceful behaviour in keeping a secret undeclared bank account for four years. All the talk after the 'speech' was about whether the Acting Secretary General had purposely raised the Blog in such a public forum in order to 'discreetly' ensure everybody knows about the secret bank account and so put further pressure on the Vice Chairman to resign. But this would be a high risk strategy because as everyone in the Irish Red Cross knows when you upset or cross the Vice Chairman your days are numbered.... Just ask the last six Secretary Generals. Some people were of the view it was just very bad judgement on the part of the Acting Secretary General and reflective of his general inexperience. Regardless of the intentions it is reported that most people who were in Limerick, however, thought the speech was ill thought and very inappropriate'.

This Blog would like to issue a big Thank You to the Acting Secretary General for highlighting the Blog to the wider membership. We commend him for this uncharacteristic burst of transparency and we encourage him to continue in this vein. The more people within the Irish Red Cross and outside who know about it, thereby knowing the truth, the greater the likelihood that regime change will happen sooner rather than later and the rebuilding of the Irish Red Cross can finally commence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Board intervention urgently required in staff bullying and harassment crisis at Irish Red Cross HQ

This Blog has reported in many of its articles that an intense atmosphere of fear and intimidation exists at the Irish Red Cross headquarters. The current period of bullying began following the unexpected and sudden resignation of the highly regarded former Chairman, David Andrews and former Secretary General, John Roycroft, in December 2009. Information from head office has been hard to come by at times but the general consensus is that staff are being subjected to a regime of subtle but endless harassment and intimidation. This began when the ruling elite on the Executive Committee parachuted the current Acting Secretary General into the position in the absence of an open advertisement and an appointment process shrouded in secrecy. One senior Irish Red Cross member who spoke to this Blog on condition of anonymity said I can confirm that staff at head office are terrified but also that they are determined to resist and will do so in equal measure to the harassment meted out to them. They are frightened of being fired and know they are all vulnerable but at the same time they have no intention of accepting such disgraceful behaviour so in their own subtle, shrewd and discreet ways will fight back. It’s not clear if senior managers are involved in the bullying or whether they also are running scared. I know many of the head office staff and they do not deserve this treatment as they are hard working and dedicated. This intimidation must be stopped. Central Council must now intervene and instruct the Acting Secretary General to refrain from such tactics before the matter explodes into the public domain. We already know three trade unions and the Labour Court are involved and recently there are rumours that staff are consulting solicitors although this has not been confirmed’.

We have also previously discussed the impact of obsession with power. The Irish Red Cross is a perfect case study in the negative consequences and also the efforts those in power will go to in order to stay in power. The bullying, mistreatment and threatening behaviour towards staff is all part of the broader campaign by the Acting Secretary General and his masters that comprise the ruling elite on the Executive Committee to remain in office. Tensions are reaching fever pitch as the midyear Central Council meeting draws ever closer on 12th June where the next Executive will be ‘elected’. It remains to be seen if the wider membership has the courage to challenge the ruling elite and once and for all rid the Irish Red Cross of the cancer at its very heart.

Surely secret bank accounts containing tens of thousands of publicly donated Euros, archaic and inept governance, incompetence, unprofessional behaviour, unqualified leaders and scandalous spending of limited funds on exorbitant consultancy fees has to be stopped?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Questions must be asked why Minister of Defence, Tony Kileen, continues to delay appointing a Chair to the Irish Red Cross

The Irish Red Cross has been leaderless for nearly five months. It became leaderless when both the Chairman and Secretary General at the time, David Andrews and John Roycroft respectively, suddenly and unexpectedly resigned in December 2009. By any standards this should have sent alarm bells to all Irish Red Cross members and to the Irish Government. Both men are highly regarded with one considered a statesman with an impeccable political career behind him and the other a consummate professional. All those familiar with the Irish Red Cross, members, volunteers, staff, government ministries, the Charity sector in general and the International Red Cross, are now aware that the organisation is convulsed in crisis. Yet no-one seems to be doing anything about it.

Minister Tony Killeen has statutory responsibility for appointing the chairperson of the Irish Red Cross. His predecessor took no interest in the problems of the Irish Red Cross but there was hope in the air after Minister Killeen’s appointment. Minister Killeen’s failure to act decisively and appoint a well qualified and suitably experienced chairperson is only exacerbating the leadership crisis and all the other deep seated problems that now beset the Irish Red Cross. Whomever Minister Killeen eventually appoints must be energetic, capable and be prepared to rectify the rot that has taken hold of the Irish Red Cross at its governance level. Two or three specific board members need to be asked to step down and allow the next generation their chance. Questions concerning the Vice Chairman’s undeclared bank account that kept over €150,000 in it for four years, money that was intended for Tsunami victims, needs to be investigated as a matter of priority. Similarly an investigation into the rumours of maltreatment and harassment of staff (both past and present) needs to be launched before there is an industrial relations meltdown. It is a scandal that all the dedicated and hard working volunteers around the country, committed Central Council and Executive Committee members and staff continue to be served by a failed leadership at the very top. Equally scandalous is the failure by the Government to appoint a strong Chairperson.

One member speaking to this Blog said ‘the appointment of the right calibre person to the Chair is critical. If this person is not prepared to remove the ruling elite and appoint a new Secretary General then the Irish Red Cross will continue on its road to irrelevance and oblivion. We have a deeply demoralised membership and a near traumatised staff. If even a small percentage of the stories are true we are heading for the rocks. It’s all very very sad’

Minister Killeen, this Blog sincerely requests your direct intervention. We humbly ask that you launch an independent investigation into the affairs of the Irish Red Cross and that you forthwith appoint a qualified, energetic, active, determined and capable Chairperson without further delay.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A lust for Power the root cause of crisis at Irish Red Cross

Many articles have been written by this Blog over the past few months and during this time we have spoken to numerous members up and down the country. The one question we have asked continually is ‘why is the Irish Red Cross in a perpetual state of crisis and why do the same problems constantly reappear?' Problems of governance, the departure of six Secretary Generals, five of whom were fired, in a short space of time, an appalling history of staff maltreatment, intimidation and disputes and an organisation that has stagnated and refuses to modernise. While we have received many and varied responses to this troubling question the common thread is always ‘two or three board members lust after power, they are obsessed with it, they crave it like a drug and they are prepared to do anything to retain it regardless of the consequences’. Unfortunately for the Irish Red Cross these two or three Board members have been very successful in their obsessive ambition. They finally solidified their dominance in December 2009 when they appointed, without any transparent or credible recruitment process, an individual to the position of Acting Secretary General, whose only mandate is to remove all opposition to the ruling elite and to do as instructed by the ruling elite in their quest for permanent power. As one well placed member stated ‘make no mistake about it the Irish Red Cross is run by two or three individuals who have been Board members for nearly two decades. Nobody else, whether it be the Acting Secretary General, senior managers (who continue their cowardly silence), other Executive Board members or Central Council members, has any influence or power. The Irish Red Cross is a dictatorship and like any dictatorship the ruling elite has people who do their bidding and who benefit from supporting the ruling elite. Like any dictatorship, however, there is constant opposition to it but all opposition is treated ruthlessly. The opposition has never been and will unlikely ever be killed off completely but at the same time it has yet to strike a killer blow on the ruling elite and so the crisis stumbles on from one year to the next. What is required to end this is for the ruling elite to do the decent thing and step down at the upcoming Central Council meeting and allow the next generation its chance. Of course those obsessed with power never willingly step down so lets hope there are members brave enough to put themselves forward for election. If the ruling elite refuse to step down after twenty years then they need to be elected out of office, it’s that simple’.

When the former Chairperson, David Andrews and the former Secretary General, John Roycroft, both resigned suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2009 it was stated by the Irish Red Cross in press statements that the vacancy for a permanent Secretary General would be opened in the latter half of 2010. This Blog hopes this will be the case but based on experience it has little or no confidence that the ruling elite will permit this as they know that no experienced Secretary General of calibre would allow them run the Irish Red Cross as if it was their own personal property. Any change to the status quo is a serious threat to their rule. This is also why the Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, must stop prevaricating and delaying the appointment of a Chairperson to the Irish Red Cross. His indecision and inaction are exacerbating an already very tense and deteriorating situation.

We started this article off by touching on power and the obsessive desire some people have for it. The term ‘power’ comes from the Latin ‘Posse’: to do, to be able, to change, to influence or effect. To have power is to possess the capacity to control or direct change. All forms of leadership must make use of power. The central issue of power in leadership is not will it be used. But rather will it be used wisely and well. Unfortunately the few Board members who constitute the Irish Red Cross ruling elite fare very badly in this regard. A famous quote from Winston Churchill is applicable to these people ‘Their insatiable lust for power is only equated by their incredible impotence in exercising it’.

It is the view of this Blog that change must come from Irish Red Cross members themselves. It cannot be acceptable for instance to the thousands of Irish Red Cross members that a Board member would keep an undeclared bank account for four years with over €150,000 in it collected for Tsunami victims and only hand over the money after its discovery by an internal audit and still continue in office. We as members must insist on and demand the highest of standards.

A number of members have said to this Blog ‘we want change but we have no power’. The opinion of this Blog is that the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. Members do have power, they have the ultimate power, they are the ones who vote in Board personnel and therefore it is they who decide who gets elected and who does not get elected. Those in power must not be interested in power for powers sake. They must be interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.

Power, however it has evolved, whatever its origin, will not be given up without a struggle. This is something all Irish Red Cross reformists must be prepared for. Reformists must not weaken or lose resolve in the face of a ferocious response from the ruling elite. Those who profess to favour reform and freedom from this tyranny and yet are reluctant to take action are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rains without thunder and lightning; they want the oceans without the roar of its many waves. The struggle may be a moral or legitimate one. But either way it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.

It has been said that nearly all men can stand adversity, from the strongest to even the weakest but if you want to test a man’s character give him power. Unfortunately the current leadership of the Irish Red Cross has failed this test.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts-Winston Churchill