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

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:01 AM

    He who trains his tongue to quote the learned sages, will be known far and wide as a smart ass.
    -- Howard Kandel,

    Fresh ideas are not always the best ideas.
    -- Fortune Cookie

    General notions are generally wrong.
    -- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, letter, March 1710

    I have gathered a posie of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.
    -- John Bartlett (of Bartlett's Familar Quotations),

    Wise men make proverbs, but fools repeat them.
    -- Samuel Palmer, Unknown , 1805-1880

    Enough said.