Sunday, July 25, 2010

Irish Red Cross's 'undeclared' €150,000 reported on front page of Sunday Times

Note: This article can also be read on our back up Blog sites:

http://reformneededatirishredcross.blogspot.com

http://reformneededatirishredcross.wordpress.com

The front page of the Sunday Times (25th July 2010) ran with the headline ‘Red Cross’s ‘undeclared’ $150,000’ . This story is a direct result of the extraordinarly foolish decision taken by the leadership of the Irish Red Cross to sue Google over this Blog. The prediction by the Blog authors that suing Google over a ‘free speech’ issue would result in the scandalous internal problems of the Irish Red Cross appearing in the media has now fully materialised. This Blog, however, certainly did not expect that the story would feature so visibly on the front page of such a prominent and highly respected publication as the Sunday Times. The reality though is that the scale and depth of Irish Red Cross problems are now sufficient for front page coverage of a Sunday newspaper. The Sunday Business Post, another highly respected Sunday newspaper, also carried a story on the Irish Red Cross suing Google on page 2 of its 25th July edition under the following headline ‘Irish Red Cross takes Google to court over critical postings on blog’ . In addition to these two newspapers the Irish Daily Mail is also interested in investigating the matter as it has posted a request on the comments section of this Blog.

The Sunday Times article leads its story with the following ‘A barrister has called on the government to intervene in the affairs of the Irish Red Cross (IRC) following the discovery of an undeclared bank account containing €150,000 intended for victims of the Asian tsunami of 2004. Jenny Bulbulia was commenting for the first time on her resignation last year as government appointed member of IRC’s central council. She cited what she claimed were low corporate governance standards’ . According to the Sunday Times the ‘The IRC has said there is ‘nothing untoward’ about the account containing the money for tsunami victims. For the benefit of new readers to this Blog let us explain that nothing is likely to be further from the truth. In early 2005 over €150,000 was collected in Tipperary from the public in response to the Irish Red Cross Tsunami Appeal. For all of 2005, 2006, 2007 and most of 2008 this money sat in a Tipperary bank account belonging to the branch of Tipperary Red Cross, the very branch the current Acting Chairman (and serving Vice Chairman for twenty one years) of the Irish Red Cross, Tony (Anthony) Lawlor, is also chairman of. Following internal suspicions that something was wrong a confidential and top secret internal audit on Irish Red Cross branch accounts was launched and through a variety of mechanisms it was discovered that there was an undeclared bank account in Tipperary with a Red Cross name containing over €150,000 in it. As soon as a certain individual discovered that the bank account had become known to head office in Dublin the money was suddenly acknowledged and transferred. In this instance Irish Red Cross corporate governance spectacularly failed and the matter was swept under the carpet. Most Board members only became aware of it when it was first reported in the Village magazine in late 2009. According to sources we have spoken to every effort has been made to bury this issue. The Sunday Times reports that Mr. Lawlor issued a statement referring to the fact that a bank account not declared to head office by him and that money donated by the general public for one of the world’s largest ever humanitarian disasters which was kept undeclared for nearly four years was the result of an ‘administrative error’ is quite frankly like watching re runs of Father Ted. Mr Lawlor is one of the most senior and longest serving members of the Irish Red Cross. This Blog also understands that there was staff fury at the time of the discovery and it was assumed resignations would immediately follow. This did not happen, much to people’s dismay. There were rumours for much of last year that the GardaĆ­ would be asked to investigate but as far as the Blog knows this has yet to happen.

In the Sunday Times article Ms. Bulbulia further stated ‘Tony Killeen, Minister for Defence, should intervene. “I cannot understand why the Minister will not act by putting in a strong chair person with a track record of getting things sorted out once and for all’. Bulbulia said her decision to resign was hastened by the society’s unwillingness to carry out an investigation into the emergence of the €150,000. ‘One of the major concerns was a lack of financial transparency’she said. ‘The uncovering of an undeclared bank account holding €150,000 that I was told was collected at the time of the tsunami was a great shock. The money was only sent forward when discovered by way of an internal audit. This is unacceptable. That Tony Lawlor is now in the position of acting Chairperson is, to my mind, concerning’. Bulbulia also criticised the charity’s decision to launch a High Court action against Google and the internet service provider UPC in an attempt to silence a blog calling for reform of the IRC.

The Sunday Business Post article of 25th July and written by the paper’s Political Editor, Pat Leahy, focuses on the Irish Red Cross High Court case against Google over this Blog. In the article the paper states ‘However, one senior figure at the charity, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed unease at the legal action. The source said that Google was one of the largest donors to the International Red Cross, which was confirmed by the organisation’s spokesman’.
The fact that the ruling elite of the Irish Red Cross and their hired help would sue one of their biggest donors sums up the mind set and calibre of the Irish Red Cross leadership. Quite honestly the mind boggles.

Jenny Bulbulia served on the Board of the Irish Red Cross for a number of years and was seen by many to represent the future of the Irish Red Cross. Intelligent, articulate, honest and passionately committed to the ideals of the Irish Red Cross and the Red Cross globally her resignation was a huge loss. During her time with the Irish Red Cross she sought governance reform and the creation of a modern dynamic organisation. This was not always welcome. Her departure, along with Judge Rory Mac Cabe (former Board member) who resigned in December 2009, David Andrews, Former Chairman, who resigned in December 2009 and two Secretary Generals, Carmel Dunne who left in 2007 and John Roycroft who left in December 2009, has left the organisation in free fall. The current Chairperson (and Vice Chairperson), Tony Lawlor is in the position in an acting capacity. The current Secretary General, Declan O’Sullivan, is in the position in an acting and temporary capacity. The Government needs to appoint the permanent chairperson to replace David Andrews. We have waited for seven months now and this person, once appointed, needs to oversee the recruitment of a long term Secretary General with the requisite experience, character, integrity and competence for such a senior position. All other matters, including the undeclared €150,000, need to be investigated independently in an open, transparent and accountable manner.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Readers,

    On my resignation from Central Council of the Irish Red Cross in March 2009, I wrote to the Minsiter setting out my reasons for my resignation. Notwithstanding that the letter was marked “Private and Confidential” the Minister decided to release it under the Freedom of Information Act on the basis that the “public interest” would be served by granting rather than refusing the request.

    Accordingly, I will now share a small portion of that letter with you.

    “Dear Minister ... I spoke at a recent meeting of Central Council, as a Council member and outgoing Board member, of my concerns for the Society and my reasons for not running for election to the current Board. I spoke strongly and candidly and fully set out my concerns. ... It was with a degree of sadnes but unfortunately little surprise that the minutes of that meeting failed to record any of what was said, or even the fact that ... [I] addressed the meeting at all. Such white-washing of the contributions of members of Central Council is unacceptable. A Board that is unwilling or unable to accept criticism, let alone repsond to it, is not a functioning Board. “

    It appears to me that the attempts by the Irish Red Cross to silence this blog are yet another instance of the Society’s failure to “accept criticism, let alone respond to it.” It is a great shame that they do not take the issues, that are raised in the blog, and respond to them in a mature and reflective manner. Sadly, the only response to criticism this current Board and Administration appear to adopt is an expensive legal action to silence criticism. It is my belief that the reputation of the Irish Red Cross deserves more.

    Kind regards,

    Jenny Bulbulia

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  2. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I'll wager 50 quid that this blog is written by a group from Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown. There's a bunch of little psycho's in there and this would be right up their street.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous10:01 AM

    I'm a reporter with the Irish Mail on Sunday and I'm interested in talking to the writer/s of this blog. Please contact me in confidence at cormac.mcquinn@mailonsunday.ie

    ReplyDelete