Thursday, September 9, 2010

Irish Government announces new Irish Red Cross Chairman

The Irish Government has, after a nine month impasse, appointed a new Chairperson to the Irish Red Cross. Mr. David J. O’Callaghan will officially take up his new role following the formal appointment by the Irish President, Mary Mc Aleese, expected to take place in the coming days.

Mr. O’ Callaghan is a former Secretary General of the Department of Defence (the Department with statutory responsibility for the Irish Red Cross), from 1995 to 2004. He has previously held the post of Personnel Manager in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners. He is currently Chairman of the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management and Chairman of the Integrated Ticketing Project Board. As Mr. O’ Callaghan has previously headed the Department with statutory responsibility for the Irish Red Cross for nine years he will have first hand familiarity with all the problems that have beset the organisation. As such it is hoped that this in depth experience and knowledge of the Irish Red Cross will be used to maximum advantage in order to reform the organisation and lead it through an urgently needed recovery.

This Blog has over the last nine months consistently and continually called on the Minister for Defence to appoint a well qualified and experienced individual to the post of Chairperson of the Irish Red Cross. The fact that the nine month impasse is now at an end is a welcome development but only the very first step on a very long road. Mr. O’ Callaghan has taken on an incredibly difficult, tough and challenging assignment, one that receives no remuneration whatsoever. For this he should be highly commended and this blog wishes Mr. O’ Callaghan every success in his new role.

In the Blog article of 25th August 2010 six key action points were outlined with a preferred timeframe of weeks. It might be helpful to recap on these and they are (additional comment in bold):

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. The appointment of a Chairperson has now been confirmed by the Irish Government.

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. This blog would encourage readers to take a look at the first comment posted on blog article dated 6th September 2010. It provides an excellent analysis on the Irish Red Cross decision to appoint a firm of accountants to investigate the Tipperary bank account saga and raises many vital questions that need to be clarified.

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 2010 that the post of Secretary General would be advertised in September. It remains to be seen if this will happen.

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 new 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. Fine Gael again called for an independent investigation on Prime Time on 26th August 2010. Representatives from the Labour Party have also called (September 2010) for an independent inquiry into the Irish Red Cross.

6. The governance/board reform proposals submitted by the Irish Red Cross to the government 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 Irish Red Cross governance reform process consultations and discussions should, on this occasion unlike the last, be all inclusive and open, meaning volunteers, staff, central council members, executive committee members and relevant external partners should be engaged and consulted.

On a separate matter:

For those of you following the web discussion on the Irish Red Cross on the web forum there are now a total of 76 comments. The direct link is:


  1. Anonymous11:52 AM

    As a volunteer, I am delighted to see a former staff officer of the Revenue coming into head office. Mr O Callaghan has a wealth of expierence with the Red Cross and more importantly as staff officer................. This is what is most needed, someone to keep the staff IN LINE. Blogs and leaks to the press, it shows clearly the respect for the Organisation and the Volunteer, it's non existent. Let the games begin :)

  2. Anonymous4:49 AM

    I agree with the first comment, all the blog and bad publicity has done is decreased the level of trust and respect betweent the volunteer and staff, let's hope there will be a change soon

  3. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Are the above commenters suggesting that the staff should keep their mouths shut in the face of endemic corruption, dishonesty and harrassment? I think you'll find that there are many volunteers who are equally disgusted by the actions of the chosen few at the top of the organisation and their spokesperson in head office. People like the above commenters are partially to blame for the deep rooted malaise in the organisation. Indeed, it was a volunteer not a member of staff who completely disgraced the organisation and its members on Prime Time recently. To blame staff for a breakdown in trust and respect between staff and volunteers is disingenous when it was a volunteer who went on national television and insulted the intelligence and integrity of her fellow volunteers.
    There would be no blog and no bad publicity if there was no problems.

  4. Anonymous4:57 AM

    Would the last poster like to expand on his/her acquisations regarding the volunteer in question as noted above.

  5. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Did you not see the show in question?? There were a number of instances in which the volunteer was caught misleading the interviewer and, by extension, the general public, donors and fellow members. The most infamous of course is the holiday blunder. Other notable moments included the 2005 phone call that there is no record of and the implication that the "adminstrative error" arose partially because branches were unable to do their own accounts.
    The episode is still available on the RTE player should anybody wish to refresh their memory.
    I hope this answers your question- if not I apologise but, despite consulting two dictionaries and a legal textbook, I was still none the wiser as to what an "acquisation" is.

  6. Anonymous7:54 AM

    it is about time we got a new Chairperson and hopefully we will soon see a new Secretary General.

    I must ask the question where has our colleague from Tipperary disappeared to??????