Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More questions asked in Dail Eireann about the Irish Red Cross on 7th July 2010

On the 7th July 2010, just days before the Dail summer recess more questions on the Irish Red Cross were asked directly to the Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen. During the debate the ongoing internal crisis was again referred to as were the issues of reform and the appointment of a Chairperson.

The questions and ensuing debate can be accessed on:

http://debates.oireachtas.ie (click through to 7th July 2010).

The debate commenced with a question to Minister Killeen from Deputy Brian O’Shea, Labour, asking the Minister ‘his plans regarding the reform of the Irish Red Cross, and if he will make a statement on the matter.’ In the course of the debate Minister Tony Killeen commented ‘I agree with Deputy O’Shea that the continuation of controversies surrounding the Red Cross is undesirable. We would like to do anything we can to address them’.

Deputy O’ Shea remarked at one point ‘Has the Minister reached a conclusion on whether an interim chairperson should be appointed? I raise this issue because I have received further negative correspondence regarding the atmosphere within the Red Cross....The bad press continues unabated. A mechanism must be found to bring the matter to a conclusion, such as some form of independent arbitration. While I fully accept that the Red Cross is an autonomous body, the State provides almost €1 million per year towards its running costs. It has done and will continue to do a great deal of good, but the negative reports that are surfacing must end. I take the point that a highly qualified person is required to act as Chair. Any change made in the method of his or her appointment will take time. However, is there not a strong case for appointing an interim chairperson with the skills and experience to deal with the issues arising?...’ In addition Deputy O’Shea also said ‘...As a measure to resolve the issues and given the climate within the organisation, though, there is a strong case for the quick appointment of an interim chairperson with the necessary skills so that body can function to its maximum potential. I do not know what is occurring within it and we all get representations, but something is wrong and must be addressed urgently’.

Deputy O’Shea, as can be seen from the debate transcript, called for some form of independent arbitration. For twenty years there have been calls for an independent investigation into the affairs of the Irish Red Cross. Such calls have come from volunteers, staff, board members, the media, Fine Gael, Labour and numerous cross party politicians during this period. The ruling elite of the Irish Red Cross are and remain terrified of any independent investigation as they know full well the outcome of any such process. For twenty years much of their effort has been spent on silencing their critics and retaining their power base. For twenty years they have failed to silence their critics. While they may have successfully removed individuals and continue to try to do so the baton of reform always gets passed on from volunteer to volunteer, from staff to staff and from board member to board member. While the personalities leading the reform charge may change over the years the call for reform will never be silenced and the baton will never be dropped. In more than twenty years it never has.

This Blog takes the overall view that Minister Killeen has a genuine interest in assisting the Irish Red Cross address its decades old problems. It does, however, question the priority to which he attaches to it. This is borne out in the delay to appoint a well qualified, committed and experienced chairperson, a delay that has only exacerbated tensions and problems at the organisation. No experienced chairperson would condone or permit what is currently happening within the Irish Red Cross.

On many occasions this Blog has pointed out that the so called ‘Governance Reform Proposals’ put forward to the Minister by the self chosen Working Group are designed purely and solely to enable the ruling elite retain power. The ruling elite drafted them and approved them. As one witty member remarked at the time the proposals were first presented ‘turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, enough said’. The proposals as currently drafted will do nothing to reform the organisation but will in effect consign the Irish Red Cross to another decade of turmoil and under performance.

Minister Killeen’s job is simple. There are two vacant places on the Central Council of the organisation and Minister Killeen is obliged under law to fill these vacant posts. Central Council member and a highly valued member of both Council and the Executive Committee, Judge Rory Mac Cabe, stepped down last December. Judge Mac Cabe was a government appointee and Minister Killeen should appoint his replacement without delay. Similarly David Andrews, former Foreign Affairs Minister, also stepped down last December. His absence is sorely missed as the organisation drifts aimlessly and very dangerously. Minister Killeen is obligated under law to appoint a replacement for Mr. Andrews. There is no complexity here, no legal complications to consider. People stepped down, replacements need to be appointed. The existing legislation applies. If legislation changes in the future then that legislation will apply but until such time current law is applicable.

Minister Killeen, this Blog appreciates that the Irish Red Cross is an irritating headache for you and your officials. It has been this way for over twenty years. Any review of newspaper, radio and TV archives, parliamentary questions, the Labour Court, staff and trade union files, staff payouts/redundancies and the High Court will bear out the fact that the Irish Red Cross is a very troubled, discontented, dysfunctional and under performing organisation. Poor governance, mismanagement, secret and undeclared bank accounts, scandalous waste of resources on consultancy fees, huge legal bills, harassment, intimidation, obsession with power and empire building all must become a thing of the past. The transformation needed cannot begin without a dynamic, qualified and energetic Chairperson that has the respect, trust and confidence of all. We would ask that you please appoint such a person.

On a separate matter:

The Blog authors have followed with interest the flurry of activity on the comments section of the last few articles. It is very encouraging to see the standard of comment increase significantly from some of the previous..how shall we put it...less intellectually robust ones. The discussion on the comments section is great to see and while the Blog authors do not necessarily agree with all that has been said the Blog site’s purpose is to encourage sensible debate, discussion and free expression.

For the record it is important to state that the Blog authors decided from the very beginning not to post any comments in the comments section and this we have never done. When we wish to comment on comments we have always done so and will continue to do so in our ‘On a separate matter’ section in articles. So no comment in the comments section can be attributed to the Blog authors.

One of the more recent comments posted informs the Blog authors that the Irish Red Cross came third in the FACE competitions held in Serbia recently. We have also read the article on the Irish Red Cross web. This is a great achievement so congratulations to all those involved. The Irish Red Cross has a fantastic record in FACE competitions and this is testament to the highest professional standards attained by Irish Red Cross volunteers throughout the country. It is the volunteers of the Irish Red Cross and its hard working staff that ensure the organisation stays afloat and has so much to be proud of. It is the governance and leadership that has consistently failed us. Congratulations again to the team from Louth for doing the Irish Red Cross proud in Europe.

The Blog authors were pleasantly surprised to see an injection of poetry into the comments section and note with interest the poems that have been chosen. We take heart from both of them as each has an important message. The poem Ozymandias by Shelly is particularly interesting. The central theme of Ozymandias is the inevitable decline of all leaders and of the empires they build however mighty they are in their own time. The twenty year dynasty that has ruled and misgoverned the Irish Red Cross will one day no longer be in power. Its decline is already well under way and its power base has been much weakened and discredited in recent years but still it dominates. Like a caged animal it fights ruthlessly for its survival but that is to be expected. In such matters patience and unwavering determination are key as the end will always come. Of course reformists must be strategic and tactical in their actions as the sting of a dying wasp is always the most painful. The secondary message of Ozymandias and one often forgotten is the condemnation of tyranny. As with the central theme of the poem this secondary message is also applicable to the Irish Red Cross, particularly in the context of the current practice of intimidating, harassing and bullying staff and anyone who speaks out. The Blog authors remain confident that with time and the eventual appointment and recruitment of a competent leadership the current ruling elite and their hired help, will like Ozymandias, crumble and disappear into oblivion.


  1. Anonymous1:16 PM

    Glad to see my poetry is welcome !!

    perhaps this would suit as well....

    THE glories of our blood and state
    Are shadows, not substantial things;
    There is no armour against Fate;
    Death lays his icy hand on kings:
    Sceptre and Crown
    Must tumble down,
    And in the dust be equal made
    With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

    Name that Poem !

    I don't necessarily agree with you in much of what you say Blogger, but I do enjoy an interesting debate !

  2. Anonymous2:00 AM

    Rain again today blogger, do you get tired of the musky summer we are having?

  3. Anonymous11:42 AM

    The Blogger is here on a mission
    Through the Red Cross laundry he's fishin'
    He's "slandered" vice-chair
    And shown Declan's unfair.
    We're lovin' the dirt that he's dishin'

  4. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Rain rain go away......... This weather is depressing me blogger. How are you? All is good here (apart from the weather). Any more news for us, the copy & paste attitude of your blogg is getting a bit boring

  5. Anonymous5:30 AM

    Hey blogger, great to have a change in the weather. A bit of sunshine is what we all need. My cat got killed last night, so I'm very upset over that. How are you? I must say its great to have this forum, its a great facility for us. Thanks

  6. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Sorry to hear about the cat!!!!

  7. Anonymous4:56 PM

    More rain, more rain and to crown it the telly is as boring as this blogg

  8. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Dear Weather Commenter,
    Look after your mental health.
    A Concerned Citizen.

  9. Anonymous4:32 AM

    + The Sun is Shining, Praise the Lord +

  10. Anonymous8:58 AM

    I've noticed that a lot of the comments (anonymously made) aren't disagreeing with the statements in the blog but are still trying to 'poo poo' it by talking about the weather and posting poems. Address the points made if you disagree with them. I had never heard of this before the Sunday Times' piece but I am glad I now do. It is a subject very close to my heart.