Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Truth needed now more than ever at the Irish Red Cross

Since December 2009 this Blog has campaigned for reform of the Irish Red Cross. For many years the organisation has been afflicted with a seemingly never ending series of internal crises, most of which involve governance, resource and funding issues as well as industrial relations problems. For twenty years successive generations of staff, volunteers and some courageous board members have sought and called for change. Such calls were never appreciated. The responses were at best wholly inadequate, at worst threatening and intimidating. Over the years some of the brightest and best have left the organisation, often exasperated and in despair. Despite, however, the endemic problems that beset the Irish Red Cross, the vast majority of volunteers and staff remain passionately committed to the ideals, objectives and principles of the Red Cross, as is this Blog.

Back in December this Blog was set up primarily to facilitate internal debate and discussion, in a confidential and ‘free from fear’ manner. This has largely been achieved and most staff and many volunteers and board members throughout the country were aware of the blog’s existence and regularly read the articles. The posting of comments was virtually non-existent initially but once the first brave soul wrote one more and more began to follow. As any reader of the blog will know many of the comments have been very supportive of the blog, the concerns it raises and its calls for urgent and immediate reform. Like any good and open debating or discussion forum some of the comments held different different views and were very negative towards the blog and a number of people obviously felt it an inappropriate way to address the issues. Some even questioned whether the issues raised even existed at all. These views were and are always welcome. The purpose of the Blog was and is to generate debate within the organisation, something that heretofore was sadly lacking and most definitely not encouraged. The Blog has been successful in this regard.

The Irish Red Cross has been subjected to a torrid time in the national media in recent weeks, as it has in regular waves over the last twenty years. The recent wave is not because of the Blog, there are millions of Blogs out there that the media never cover. The reason for the constant media coverage is because there is a very real and a very serious story to be told, one that must be heard. Once again, as has happened many times over the last two decades, it is being told in the media and Irish Red Cross staff, volunteers, board members, donors, supporters, government departments all need to know what is happening as all these groups have stakes in the health and welfare of the organisation. The story of the Irish Red Cross, as reported in the media, has not been created by this Blog nor has it been created by the imaginative minds of newspaper editors. The Irish Red Cross has created this story itself through its own actions and behaviour. We, as a national Red Cross society, are the sole creators of all our deep rooted problems and sadly we have consistently failed to address and resolve them. Hence, once again, the Irish Red Cross finds itself embroiled in the middle of a severe internal crisis, one that is increasingly being played out in the full glare of the national media. If we do not immediately address the fundamental issues of radical governance reform and the current leadership vacuum the crisis will worsen and the glare of the media will intensify.

While there are no overnight solutions to the problems that beset the Irish Red Cross the following should take place within weeks:

1. The Minister to appoint a highly qualified, skilled, reputable, experienced, determined and energetic chairperson with a very clear mandate to fundamentally reform the Irish Red Cross. The appointment has been outstanding for eight months. This Blog welcomes Minister Killeen’s statement as reported in the Sunday Independent on 22nd August 2010 that an appointment is expected in September. We can only hope its early September.

2. The new Chairperson needs to initiate an investigation into the ‘undeclared’ Tipperary Bank account where €162,000 raised for victims of the Asian Tsunami, sat for over three years until it was discovered during a secret internal audit of Irish Red Cross branch bank accounts. This matter alone has generated much media coverage and in and of itself has greatly damaged the reputation and credibility of the Irish Red Cross. People responsible for what happened must be held accountable for their actions.

3. The new Chairperson should be tasked with overseeing, in an open and transparent manner along with a professional recruiting firm, the recruitment of a permanent Secretary General. The current caretaking scenario needs to conclude forthwith. The Sunday Independent reported on 22nd August that the post of Secretary General would be advertised in September. This is a very welcome development if true.

4. Following the appointment of a new Chairperson and the recruitment of a new Secretary General a special General Assembly of all Irish Red Cross members, volunteers and staff should be convened. The last general assembly took place in 2005. The two scheduled for 2007 and 2009 simply never took place. Such closure within any organisation is very unhealthy and the Irish Red Cross is proof of the damaging consequences. The calling of a special General Assembly of all members under the new Chairperson and Secretary General would allow for a new start, a rebirth and a revitalisation of the whole national society.

5. This Blog has previously called for a full scale independent investigation into the affairs and operations of the Irish Red Cross. Fine Gael, in an official statement issued in February 2010, called for an Independent Investigation. Irish Red Cross staff went on RTE in 1999 and called for an Independent Investigation. Calls for an Independent Investigation have been continual for over a decade now. If the organisation is to move forward, eventually recover and leave its past behind then an open, all encompassing independent investigation must be the starting point.

6. The Irish Red Cross governance reform proposals submitted to the government in early 2010 should be withdrawn and the process started afresh. The current proposals will not reform the organisation. Instead they will maintain the status quo, which is their intention disguised as reform. In any revised governance reform process consultations and discussions should be all inclusive and open, meaning volunteers, staff, central council members, executive committee members and relevant external partners should be engaged and consulted.

Any reform process undertaken by the Irish Red Cross must have at its core the determination to stamp out fear from within the society. Fear has been the greatest and most effective weapon used to dominate and control the Irish Red Cross for the last twenty years. Fear is what stops us being who we are, achieving what we are capable of and forces us, against our will, to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and treatment. Frances Moore Lappe summed it up well ‘I’ve grown certain that the root of all fear is that we’ve been forced to deny who we are’.

I, the blog author, believe Frances Moore Lappe, is correct. No longer will I fear. No longer will I deny who I am.

Noel Wardick
Head of International Department
Irish Red Cross

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is-Winston Churchill

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Well done, Noel. You spoke up in a way that many feared and I admire your courage. There are problems as stated in this blog and I continue to hope that this blog and other recent activities turn out to be stepping stones toward a future that the Irish Red Cross, it's members, volunteers and staff can be proud of.

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  2. Anonymous4:21 AM

    Hi Noel,
    Would like to chat.. Can you call me on 086 3026620..
    Daniel McConnell

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  3. Anonymous4:55 AM

    Hi Noel,

    Would be grateful if you could give me a call on this at 01-6758705. Thanks Charlie

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  4. Anonymous6:33 AM

    Congrats Noel - more power to you. Sent you a text a couple of weeks ago when you were on leave to see if you want to meet up for lunch or a pint - let me know. J

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  5. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Congrats and well done Noel.You have done no more than to call time on years of Dysfunction,Cronyism, Cute-Hoorism, Mismanagement and undue interference of small time,Unprofessional people in the running of the Organisation.Interesting to note that the Red Cross never attempted to answer the claims and critisisms on this blog in any sort of credible and coherent way.!

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  6. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Have experience in dealing with a bullying organisation which has gone into liquidation now. It's a long road but worth it to get problem solved.

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  7. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Well done Noel. I just watched RTE's Prime Time Programme report on the Irish Red Cross. Your concerns and issues raised in this blog have been confirmed by the programme. The problems at the Irish Red Cross appear to be long standing and deep rooted. The list and range of issues is deeply worrying. The Minister for Defence must take action immediately. The personal risks you have taken to highlight these problems should be commended. I hope this is the start of a new era for the Irish Red Cross.

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  8. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Hi Noel, Well done. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to expose failures in governess and lack of transparency in the Irish Red Cross with a view to building a stronger organisation. Shame on the management of the Irish Red Cross! Do they not realise what responsibility it has in implementing the fundamental principles of The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – the world's largest humanitarian organization.

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  9. T Rafferty3:58 PM

    Well done for your courageous whistle blowing. We need more people like you to speak out if we are to implement long lasting positive change.

    I can't but wonder if this is happening at other Government funded and Irish citizen supported NGOs.

    I think the media spotlight now needs to widen its focus and review all similar relief / humanitarian NGOs. Their annual reports would be a good starting point.

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  10. Watched Prime Time last night and was highly impressed by your performance.
    Well done.
    I hope the changes you wish to be brought in happen and I imagine too that many other NGOs that receive government funding will also come under the microscope now too which is a good thing.
    Aside from the failings you pointed out, many like myself were shocked at the salary of the Secretary General.

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  11. Anonymous8:03 AM

    HI NOEL
    CONGRATS ON YOUR "WHISTLEBLOWING" ON THE "MURKY GOINGS ON" AT THE IRISH RED CROSS.THE SO CALLED SPOKESPERSON FOR THE RED CROSS SEEMED LIKE SHE WAS "SET-UP" AND LOOKED "LOST AND ALL AT SEA".IT WAS DISGRACEFUL THAT THE SO CALLED "ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL" OF THIS ORGANISATION,APPARANTLY ON A TOTALLY UNJUSTIFABLY LARGE SALARY OF OVER €100,000 DID NOT APPEAR ON THE PROGRAM TO REPRESENT THE RED CROSS AND DEAL WITH THE COMPLAINTS AND CRITISISMS RAISED.THE BOARD OF THIS ORGANISATION SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL AN EMERGENCY MEETING TO SEEK THE "IMMEDIATE RESIGNATIONS OF BOTH THE ACTING SECRETARY GENERAL AND THE VICE CHAIRMAN" FOR HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE TIPPERARY BANK ACCOUNT ISSUE.ONCE AGAIN WELL DONE FOR "SHINING A LIGHT ON THESE ISSUES.

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  12. Anonymous8:42 AM

    Well done Noel it is never easy to stand up at a personal cost - keep up the good work and don't give up. Keep bringing it to the highest level- The Irish RCross came across as totally unprofessional and unjust - I won't be supporting them again until I am convinced they have 'cleaned up their act' !

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  13. Anonymous8:17 AM

    noel, in the words of mark twian 'courage is resistence to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear' and i know that you have displayed great courage and i admire you more than ever for your moral courage, which can be so rare these days, to stand up at personal risk to yourself for all that you believe in. both this blog and your prime time interview have raised the awareness of the public to a long history of what appears to be inappropraite governance in one of the organisations our country should be so proud of for all the great work that is done by the other dedicated staff and volunteers on the ground.
    i hope your actions will bring about the reforms that are necessary.
    well done, i have great respect for you, as does anyone i have spoken to who watched your interview.
    E.D.

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  14. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Any response from the IRC yet? Will be interesting to see how they try and wriggle out of this one. The Minister needs to act and ensure staff and volunteers that speak the truth do not suffer for it. Whistleblowers need to be protected! Saw the Sunday Independent article today. Interesting! Will be following what happens from here on in with bated breath. I believe there is a lot more to be uncovered than what was written on this blog. Did some basic research and the list of staff who've left and consultants who've been employed over the last number of years makes interesting reading. Good luck Noel, my best wishes to a man of integrity, courage and conviction. The community and voluntary sector needs more people like you.

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  15. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Hey Noel, congrats dude, brave man for coming out and saying what you've done. Hope all goes well for you mate.

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