Saturday, October 30, 2010

30th October 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the founder of the Red Cross, Henry Dunant

The 30th October 2010 is a very important day for the Red Cross movement around the world. 100 years ago to the day the founder of this great humanitarian organisation, Henry Dunant, died, following a life of the highest of ups and the lowest of downs. From the horrors of the Battle of Solferino in 1859, which Dunant witnessed firsthand, an idea was formed. 100 years later that idea has grown into the largest humanitarian organisation in the world with 97 million volunteers and 186 national Red Cross Red Crescent Societies.

In a much changed world the seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross movement, Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality remain as important, if not more important, as in any time in world history.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Henry Dunant’s death it is timely to remind ourselves what the Red Cross Movement stands for and the sacrifices made by Dunant and thousands of Red Cross Movement volunteers and staff over the last hundred years who made them in order to keep the idea alive and to hold true to the vision of their founder. This Blog hopes the Irish Red Cross takes time over the anniversary weekend and the coming days to reflect on the situation it currently finds itself in and to determine once and for all to address the deep rooted problems it faces. Equally importantly this Blog looks forward to hearing about Irish Red Cross plans to mark the 100th anniversary.

Red Cross societies, therefore, should include, in each country, as members of their governing board, men enjoying the most honourable reputation and the highest esteem."-Henry Duant, A memory of Solferino

The story of an idea (Henry Dunant and the founding of the Red Cross) can be found in animated form on:

This Blog also came across a very interesting article that readers will hopefully enjoy:

A Swiss Town Celebrates the Red Cross Founder It Never Much Liked

By Andrew Marshall, Time in partnership with CNN / Heiden, Switzerland

If you don't count the "whey diet" — a grim 19th-century health regime that involved drinking nothing but a pungent, watery by-product of goat's milk — then the picturesque Swiss town of Heiden has just one historical claim to fame. Fortunately, it's a big one.

The year is 1887. Nestling in the Alpine foothills, Heiden is well known among high-society Europeans for its health spas, crisp air and bracing view over Lake Constance. A doctor called Hermann Altherr visits a patient at a local guesthouse. It is an old man, exhausted and half-paralyzed with eczema, and clearly of limited means. Like an explorer chancing upon a long-lost jungle ruin, Altherr is startled to discover that his patient is Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross movement. The doctor — and much of the rest of the world — had assumed him dead.

Dunant spent the last quarter of an extraordinary life in Heiden, most of it in a single room in the town's old hospital. He died there on October 30, 1910. Today, a museum in the same building presides over a series of events to mark the centenary of his death. Heiden rescued Dunant from obscurity — it was here that a telegram arrived in 1901, announcing that he had won the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize — then fell into obscurity itself. Now the town hopes its most celebrated resident will put it back on the map.

In its heyday, Heiden was regarded as a lower-altitude alternative to swankier Swiss resorts such as Davos and St. Moritz. But the Great Depression killed off its spa industry, and today it must compete for tourists with countless other scenic and well-preserved Swiss towns. Heiden (pop. about 4,000) is part of Appenzellerland, a bucolic corner of eastern Switzerland famous for its dairy farms. The region is often overlooked by visitors on their way to the dramatic snow-capped peaks in the distance. This is a shame, since few places feel more authentically Swiss. The official website for Appenzellerland yodels and lows.

This year Heiden is making a noise about its most eminent resident, with exhibitions, concerts and an international youth camp. The Japanese city of Nagasaki has donated a replica of its Peace Bell, while American sprint legend Carl Lewis will lead hundreds of children in a "world harmony run" through the village. "It's not just about remembering Dunant," says Monika Gessler, Project Coordinator for the Dunant Year 2010 Association. "It's about giving young people an understanding of his values: solidarity, humanity and moral courage."

Dunant was born in 1828 in Geneva, about 200 miles away, to staunchly Calvinist parents who encouraged his early passion for social work among orphans, paupers and prisoners. He was a mediocre student, however, who dropped out of college to become an even worse businessman. In 1859, Dunant traveled to Solferino, in northern Italy, where he evidently believed that Napoleon III might pause from fighting Imperial Austria to intercede in his troubled business affairs in French-occupied Algeria. Then 31 years old, Dunant arrived in time to witness the aftermath of a nine-hour battle which had littered the rolling Italian countryside with tens of thousands of dead and wounded.

Medical care was meager — the French army had more veterinarians than doctors. So amid what he later described as "chaotic disorder, despair unspeakable, and misery of every kind," Dunant mobilized local volunteers — mostly women and girls — to care for the injured, whatever their nationality. Four years later, he and four other Genevans set up the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, later to become the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Today, the movement has 97 million volunteers, supporters and staff in 186 countries.

Its distinctive emblem — an inverse of the Swiss flag — now decorates the windows of many Heiden businesses, as the town gears up to mark Dunant's death. The celebration is laced with irony, explains museum guide and local historian Corina Schmid-Maddalena. "Dunant couldn't stand Heiden people," she says cheerfully, "and they thought he was arrogant. He refused to speak German, while most locals couldn't speak a word of French." Reclusive and prone to bouts of depression and paranoia, Dunant was convinced that somebody was poisoning his food and opening his mail. During all his years in Heiden he made only a handful of friends.
Even today, you sense that not every Haedler — as Heiden people are called in one of Appenzell's thick dialects — cherishes Dunant's memory. Many locals have never visited the museum, admits Schmid-Maddalena. Perhaps they know that Dunant ended up here reluctantly, after a shocking reversal of fortune.

A decade that for Dunant began with triumph — in 1864, a year after the creation of the Red Cross, 12 governments adopted the first Geneva Convention — ended in disaster. His neglected business affairs collapsed, pauperizing him and wiping out investments by many friends and relatives. Bankrupt, he resigned from the International Committee in 1867 and left Geneva in shame, never to return. "Everything broke down around me, everything went dark," he wrote. He lived in a handful of countries over the next two decades, a fugitive from his creditors. Once, at a speech in the British city of Plymouth, he fainted, apparently due to hunger.

Settling in Heiden, ill-health brought him to Dr. Altherr's attention. But it was a 1895 article by a Swiss journalist which reintroduced Dunant to the world. "Without you, the Red Cross, the supreme humanitarian achievement of the nineteenth century would probably have never been undertaken," read the citation for his Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with the French pacifist Frédéric Passy. Dunant had his prize money administered from Norway, so that his creditors couldn't get it.

"Would you like to try some whey?" asks Schmid-Maddalena, rummaging through a refrigerator during a tour of the museum. (Fortunately, she serves a drinkable modern variety, fortified with orange juice.) The tour includes a reconstruction of Dunant's room with his original armchair, its upholstery worn thin during his years of seclusion. Nearby hangs an equally ragged artifact from another era: a Red Cross flag used as a blanket by an ICRC delegate kidnapped in Angola in 1982.

The flag is a reminder of how much war has changed, and how fragile Dunant's cherished concept of neutrality sometimes seems. Almost everyone who perished at Solferino was a soldier, but civilians — among them humanitarians — do most of the dying in modern conflict. In 2008, more aid workers were killed than armed United Nations peacekeeping troops. Kidnappings continue: in March ICRC worker Gauthier Lefevre was freed after being held hostage in Darfur for 147 days.

"Let us raise our spirits and our souls above the narrow horizon of our small countries to see only humanity," wrote Dunant. His second-floor room — now the super-tidy office of a medical technician — still has its fine view of Heiden's clock tower, a landmark Dunant grew to hate as its bell fastidiously tolled away his final hours in quarter-hour segments. "How tiresome it is to die so slowly," he told Dr. Altherr. Dunant lived to the age of 82. He spurned both Heiden and his hometown of Geneva as a final resting place, requesting to be buried in Zurich "with no ceremony of any kind."

His death didn't sever Heiden's connection with the Red Cross. Consider this curious postscript. The year is 1944. With war in Europe raging to a close, a Heiden woman called Claire Kellenberger gives birth in the same hospital building in which Dunant drew his last breath. It is a boy. She calls him Jakob. Today, he is president of the ICRC.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ireland's leading daily newspaper carries Editorial on Irish Red Cross problems while Transparency International calls for independent review

Irish Independent carries Editorial on Irish Red Cross problems and Transparency International press release calls for independent review of Ireland’s national Red Cross Society.

Following the recent intense political and media attention on the endemic problems within the Irish Red Cross (see recent Blog articles for details) the Irish Independent newspaper, Ireland’s biggest selling week day publication, has carried an extremely important editorial on the Irish Red Cross (in its 27th October 2010 edition). The full transcript of this editorial can be found later in this article.

On 26th October 2010 Transparency International-Ireland issued a press release nationally and internationally announcing the publication of its Corruption Perception Index 2010. In this press release it specifically references the situation prevailing at the Irish Red Cross. For those readers not familiar with Transparency International it is a global organisation that monitors and reports on corruption and abuse of power around the world. It has offices in many countries including one in Dublin. The Corruption Perceptions Index is published annually by Transparency International and measures international business and expert perceptions of levels of public sector corruption around the world. Six surveys conducted by think tanks including the World Economic Forum and the Economist Intelligence Unit were used in compiling Ireland’s results. It says much about the state of play at the Irish Red Cross when it is specifically mentioned in Transparency International-Ireland’s press release. Extracts from the press release and a link to the full release are contained further down in this article.

The Irish Independent editorial of 27th October 2010 is transcribed below in full:

Whistleblowers need protection

What a relief: Ireland is not corrupt after all. Well, not too corrupt anyway, when compared to the likes of Somalia and Afghanistan. AQ corruption index, which is compiled by Transparency International, places Ireland as 14th least corrupt country. It all sounds rather academic until we hear John Devitt of the Irish branch of Transparency criticise the Government’s failure to adequately protect whistleblowers who expose misbehaviour within organisations. Such people run the risk of being sacked or sued in return for acting in the public interest. The organisation draws particular attention to the case of Noel Wardick who was suspended from his position in the Irish Red Cross (IRC) after he revealed himself as the author of a blog which alleged issues of poor governance and financial irregularities at the charity. The Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, has repeatedly refused to get involved, despite the fact that Mr. Wardick seems likely to be declared guilty of misconduct and sacked.

At the heart of the extraordinary affair is €162,000 of donations which lay idle in a Tipperary bank account for three years. An inquiry by outside accountants was launched by the IRC, only to be quickly abandoned on the basis of cost and replaced with an internal probe which has been criticised in the Dail as being simply not credible.

An independent inquiry into the allegations and the mysterious case of the Tipperary bank account would seem to be the only way the IRC can ensure that its excellent reputation remains unblemished.

Extracts from the Transparency International-Ireland press release are below:

Transparency welcomed the recent anti-corruption investigations led by the Criminal Assets Bureau but criticised the Government’s current approach to whistleblower protection which only protects employees in selected categories. The anti-corruption group claims that people working across the public, private and non-profit sectors continue to be exposed to dismissal or legal reprisals for reporting concerns in the public interest.

Transparency has also called on the Irish Red Cross (IRC) to set a good example for other non-profit organisations by commissioning an independent review of claims made by its Head of International Department, Noel Wardick and by suspending its disciplinary action against him until the findings of an independent review are published. Mr. Wardick publicly aired his concerns about financial mismanagement and governance at the charity, and has been suspended since August of this year.

“Employers should do the right thing by those who honestly report their concerns and act on the information at hand. The Irish Red Cross is not the only organisation to have faced the kind of challenges that Mr. Wardick has claimed it faces. It would be a shame if his reports were to end in his dismissal”, said Mr. Devitt, Director of Transparency International-Ireland.

The link to the full Transparency International press release is:

The Irish Times of 27th October, page 18 (Business Section) also carried a report on the Irish Red Cross situation and the Corruption Index. The article is based on the Transparency International press release.

In addition to all of the above commentary on the Irish Red Cross on one of Ireland’s leading web discussion forums, is alive and well. The exact link is below:

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Dash to save job of Red Cross Mole"

On Sunday 24th October 2010 the Sunday Independent, Ireland's largest selling newspaper published the following article, written by Chief Reporter, Daniel Mc Connell:

Dash to save job of Red Cross mole

Demands for Killeen to 'grab issue by neck' and defend whistleblower


MINISTER for Defence Tony Killeen has been called on to stage an eleventh-hour intervention to prevent the sacking next week of an Irish Red Cross whistleblower, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Noel Wardick, head of International Development at the IRC, was suspended after he revealed himself to be the author of an online blog which continually highlighted issues of poor governance and financial irregularities at the charity.

Officially, the disciplinary process is still ongoing but the Sunday Independent has learnt that it is to be concluded next week, and it is expected that Mr Wardick will be found guilty of "misconduct".

Mr Killeen, who has responsibility for the Irish Red Cross, has repeatedly refused to intervene in the issue, despite the embattled charity receiving almost €1m in funding from the State annually.

Supporters of Mr Wardick, including some members of the IRC's central council, have called on Mr Killeen to "grab the issue" by the neck and prevent the sacking.

"Wardick risked his own career to speak out and raise publicly what has been going wrong in the IRC. Now he faces the sack for his trouble. He needs not only to be protected but thanked for his courage," said one government-appointed council member.

Fine Gael's David Stanton has also called on Mr Killeen to stop sitting on his hands and sort the IRC out once and for all.

"His repeated refusal to get involved is disgraceful. I am very anxious that these issues are severely damaging the reputation of the Irish Red Cross. A total overhaul of the governance structure is needed and he has sat on his hands while all this controversy has rolled on," he said.

Mr Killeen repeated his refusal to get involved in the IRC controversy during questions in the Dail about the charity last week, including a number from his coalition partner Green Party TD Paul Gogarty, who asked him to explain his actions following recent revelations about the IRC.

The Irish Red Cross came in for criticism two weeks ago when we reported that it cancelled an independent review in to how €162,000 of donations lay idle in a Tipperary bank account controlled by then acting IRC chairman Tony Lawlor.

The IRC said that it had decided to end the independent inquiry on "cost grounds" and had replaced it with an internal committee investigation. Despite Mr Wardick's admission that he was the author of the critical blog, the IRC has controversially decided to continue its legal action against Google for facilitating the blog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some of Ireland's most respected politicians question Minister on Irish Red Cross situation

On Thursday 21st October 2010 five leading politicians from Ireland's two main Opposition political parties, Fine Gael and Labour, issued formal questions to the Minister for Defence in the Irish Parliament, Dail Eireann, regarding the ongoing difficulties at the Irish Red Cross. This follows a number of questions put to the Minister on Tuesday 19th October by one of his own government colleagues, Paul Gogarty of the Green Party (see previous blog article for details and link). The politicians who posed questions on the 21st were:

  • David Stanton, Fine Gael spokesperson on Defence
  • Jim O'Keefe, Fine Gael
  • Michael D. Higgins, Labour
  • Joan Burton, Labour
  • Joe Costello, Labour

It is to be noted that Michael D. Higgins is one of Ireland's most respected and highly regarded politicians and is likely to be a front runner in next year's Presidential election. Joan Burton of Labour is their Spokesperson on Finance and has a very real chance of being the country's next Minister of Finance once a general election is called.

Deputy David Stanton, Fine Gael, asked the Minister in one of his questions if he was the one responsible for delaying 'change, reform and progress' within the Irish Red Cross. Despite the Minister giving his usual standard answers that say very little a number of interesting points were noted in his reply, namely:

  • The 'Office of the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Counsel' are now examining the situation at the Irish Red Cross so that the necessary reform can be effected.
  • The Minister classified the plans as 'a major restructuring'. This Blog is of the view that the proposals submitted by the Irish Red Cross to Government will do nothing apart from retain the status quo and ensure those in power for the last twenty years remain in power.
  • The Minister refused to be drawn on a timetable. Deputy Stanton pushed him on this but to no avail.
  • The Minister stated that he expected the Irish Red Cross to be able to fill the post of Secretary General 'in the near future'.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins, Labour, asked two critically important questions:

  1. Asked the Minister his views on the sums of money being spent on consultants and legal fees by Irish Red Cross
  2. Asked the Minister his views on the reported salary of €160,000 a year paid to the Acting Secretary General.

Deputy Joan Bruton, Labour, asked the Minister about the claims made on the RTE (national TV broadcaster) Prime Time investigative program of 26th August 2010 about the Irish Red Cross and whether the Minister felt an independent investigation was required.

Deputy Joe Costello, Labour, asked the Minister for an update on the reported independent accountants review of a specific Irish Red Cross bank account. As was reported two weeks ago by the Sunday Independent and subsequently in this Blog we now know that the Irish Red Cross has cancelled this independent investigation and will instead carry it out themselves!

Deputy Jim O' Keefe, Fine Gael, asked the Minister for a progress update on the governance reform proposals and if statutory changes will be necessary.

The full transcript of the questions asked and the Minister's responses can be found on the following links (each link contains different questions and the Minister's response to those questions):

Irish Red Cross : 2 Dail debates================================Priority Questions (21 Oct 2010)

*Irish Red Cross* SocietyIrish Red Cross Society (21 Oct 2010)

Written Answers - Irish Red Cross: Irish Red Cross (21 Oct 2010)

Written Answers - Irish Red Cross: Irish Red Cross (21 Oct 2010)

Written Answers - Irish Red Cross: Irish Red Cross (21 Oct 2010)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Questions raised in Irish Parliament about Irish Red Cross by a member of the coalition government

Regular readers of this Blog will be very familair with the fact that for the last twelve months many politicians in Ireland have asked formal parliamentary questions of the Minister for Defence on matters relating to the Irish Red Cross. Indeed questions in the Irish Parliament about governance, financial and mangement concerns at the Irish Red Cross have been tabled at regular intervals for the last twenty years. This is not a positive reflection on the Irish Red Cross but instead demonstrates the serious worries of generations of Irish policiticans into the running of the country's national Red Cross Society. Coincidentialy the twenty year period of concern, controversy and parliamentary questions has mirrored much of the term in office of certain 'leaders' of the Irish Red Cross. Is this a coincidence then? Its really a matter for the Government, IFRC, ICRC and Irish Red Cross members and staff to decide. It is an interesting correlation of timeframes and events though.

What is highly significant about the recent parliamentary questions tabled on 20th October 2010 by Green Party TD (Irish equivalent of an MP), Deputy Paul Gogarty, is that it is the first time in the last year that a member of the serving coalition government has asked parliamentary questions to his ministerial colleague, Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen. It surely must be a barmoter of the scale, depth and extent of the problems at the Irish Red Cross that a member of a governing party is asking a government ministerial colleague on record in the parliament for clarification and answers.

It was encouraging to see Deputy Gogarty raise the issue of an independent investigation into Irish Red Cross banking matters. The Minister's response was less encouraging though. Should an independent investigation ever go ahead this blog would also suggest that it be extended to include the small matter of the Irish Red Cross property portfolio which, in contravention of good accounting practice, is not disclosed on the books or in the financial accounts of the organisation. Why this is no-one knows and where these properties are and how they are utilised remains unknown to the vast majority of people involved in the Irish Red Cross. Many of these properties were given to the Irish Red Cross by individuals and families as part of their legacies and wills. Why they are not included in the financial accounts and records of the Irish Red Cross has never been adequately explained. It remains a most serious outstanding matter.

It is not clear if Deputy Gogarty has been in contact with his Green Party colleagues who serve as government nominees on the Irish Red Cross Central Council.

Deputy Gogarty's well thought out questions and the Minister's standard answers are available on the link below:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Irish Red Cross cancels independent investigation into undeclared Tipperary bank account, according to Sunday Independent

Daniel Mc Connell, Chief Reporter, Sunday Independent, has reported in the 10th October 2010 edition of one of Ireland's biggest selling news papers, that the Irish Red Cross has unilaterally decided to cancel the independent investigation in to the undeclared Tipperary branch bank account that contained €162,000 of money intended for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. The money and the bank account remained undeclared until it was discovered during a secret internal audit in late 2008. Barely a month ago the Irish Red Cross announced to the media that it had decided to hire an independent firm of accountants to investigate the matter. 'Cost reasons' have been cited as the excuse for the cancellation.

McConnell's article leads with the headline 'KILLEEN REFUSES TO INTERVENE IN RED CROSS ROW'. This is followed by a sub-headline 'Fine Gael, main opposition party, hits out at charity's decision to pull plug on independent probe into tsunami donations'.

Tony Killeen is the Minister for Defence in the Irish government. The Minister's spokeswoman stated "The Minister has no role in the day to day activities or internal decisions of the society or its executive council". This is interesting. Here are the facts: The Ministry of Defence has statutory responsibility for the Irish Red Cross and appoints 17 members of the Irish Red Cross Central Council. The Minister of Defence appoints the Irish Red Cross Chairman. A senior civil servant from the Department of Defence sits on the Executive Committee of the organisation. The Executive Committee oversees and makes all day to day decisions of the Irish Red Cross. The government's recruiting agency, the Public Appointments Service, is handling the recruitment of a permanent Irish Red Cross Secretary General. Its hard to tally these facts with the Minister's position.

In early September 2010 the Irish Red Cross informed us all they were appointing an independent firm of accountants to investigate the undeclared Tipperary bank account, which the organisation's Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor, was a signatory on-saying it has "nothing to hide". The Sunday Independent, on 5th September 2010, stated 'The move by the IRC to appoint independent accountants comes despite it knowing about the "administrative error" for over two years, and has occurred only since it has been the subject of intense media scrutiny'.

In early October 2010 the Irish Red Cross issued another official statement saying "The Irish Red Cross wishes to confirm that it has put an internal committee in place of an accountancy firm, to carry out the review in question. This decision has been made in order to avoid unnecessary expenditure".

The move to cancel the independent investigation by Irish Red Cross has been heavily criticised by Fine Gael TD (MP), Jimmy Deenihan, who said an 'an internal investigation simply "wont be credible". "The Red Cross needs investigating from top to bottom by an independent person who is beyond reproach. This will not now happen and this internal investigation into the Tipperary account is simply not credible, given the damage that has been done to the emblem of the IRC in recent times," Mr. Deenihan said.

The Sunday Independent report went on to say 'Despite the IRC receiving almost €1m from the taxpayer every year, Mr. Killeen, Minister for Defence, said yesterday he would not interfere in this issue'. The article commented 'that Killeen is likely to come under fire over his refusal to intervene'. One can only assume that at the very least there will be a series of Parliamentary Questions and debate in the Irish parliament over this extremely serious and potentially damaging decision.

It is not clear who exactly took the final decision to cancel the independent investigation but regardless those at the top must be held accountable for their actions and all members of both the Executive Committee and the Central Council must be held collectively responsible for what has happened and what is happening at the Irish Red Cross.

A number of people have asked of this blog in recent times 'where is all this going?'. This has been on the blog author's mind alot who came across the following from an unknown author and felt it was helpful 'I havent a clue as to how this story will end. But thats alright. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, you don't conclude the road has vanished. And without the dark how else could we discover the stars?'.

Full article available on


The fact of the Watergate cover up is not nearly as interesting as the steps into making the cover up. And when you understand the steps, you understand that Richard Nixon lied. That he was a criminal-Bob Woodward

On a Separate Matter:

Some interesting comments on (search for Irish Red Cross Vs Blogger thread) or click on

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Irish Red Cross announces intention to recruit Secretary General

The Irish Red Cross has advertised for the post of Secretary General. The advertisement appeared in the Irish Times on October 8th 2010.

The Irish Red Cross has been without a permanent Secretary General for nearly ten months since the unexpected and sudden resignation of the former incumbent, John Roycroft, in December 2009. Mr. Declan o' Sullivan, finance consultant, has been in charge of the organisation in an acting capacity since Mr. Roycroft's departure. The decision to recruit a permanent replacement for Mr. Roycroft and bring to an end months of uncertainty around the position is to be welcomed.

This blog does note with interest, however, that the recruitment is to be handled by the Public Appointments Service, the government body responsible for all public sector recruitment in Ireland. Given that the post of Secretary General is not a public sector or civil service job this does appear somewhat unusual. Nevertheless it is very important that the recruitment process is handled and overseen by a body external to the Irish Red Cross.

The Closing Date for applications is 28th October 2010. For more information on the post and how to make an application, log on to, or for a confidential discussion contact Pat O'Dea at +353-1-8587481 or

On a separate matter:

Thank you to all the people who have posted comments recently. At time of writing there is 69 comments on the previous two articles. It is very encouraging to see that the continued legal action by the Irish Red Cross against Google has not deterred people from expressing their views and opinions.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Irish Red Cross to continue its legal action against Google Inc in order to obtain the identities of everyone who has posted comments on Blog

The Irish Red Cross is to continue its legal action against Google Inc in order to obtain the identities of everyone who has posted comments on Blog, according to the Sunday Times newspaper (3rd October 2010).

The Sunday Times journalist, Mark Tighe, has reported in its 3rd October 2010 edition that ‘the IRC is continuing to pursue Google through its lawyers. The charity believes many of the anonymous comments on the blog come from within the IRC and it has asked Google to provide details of all those who left remarks’.

Mark Tighe does not comment, however, on the legal bill being incurred by the Irish Red Cross by continuing to sue one of the world’s best known companies and one which is a major donor to and supporter of the Red Cross Movement globally. Presently there are 170 comments posted on the Blog. It is not known how many individuals are involved in writing the 170 comments or from which four corners of the world they may emanate from.

The Sunday Times article also states ‘Google would not comment on the action but has previously said it would “be very slow to identify any of our users unless compelled to do so”. Given Google’s global record on such matters and its commitment to freedom of speech and an individual’s right to express an opinion the Irish Red Cross Vs Google Inc (headquarters in California) could become a very long and protracted case, one that will no doubt consume vast sums of Irish Red Cross donor money as well as the time and energy of the new Chairman, David J. O’ Callaghan and the permanent Secretary General, whenever the Irish Red Cross decides to appoint one.

One would seriously have to question whether trying to identify the names of the authors of 170 comments (to date) on the Blog is really the best use of Irish Red Cross’s very limited financial resources, especially when the author of the Blog has already identified himself. The question then begs itself of course as to what the Irish Red Cross intends to do if they ever get the names of the authors of the comments. Will they then issue legal proceedings against all these people, who one presumes are perfectly entitled in any democratic free society to post comments on a blog? How many different individuals and companies does the Irish Red Cross intend to sue in the coming weeks and months, Google, UPC, numerous posters of comments, the blog author, anybody else who may in time question the organisation's behaviour and actions? This could amount to multiple legal actions lasting years and costing the Irish Red Cross many hundreds of thousands of Euros if not much more. As far as this blog is aware criticism and calls for reform are not yet illegal in Ireland. Would time and energy not be better spent on addressing the multitude of deep and serious problems that afflict the organisation and that have been covered extensively in Irish media and on national television (RTE Prime Time, 26th August 2010)?

In addition to the above there is the very real potential of serious and lasting damage to the global Red Cross Movement’s relationship with Google (an important partner and donor including to the Irish Red Cross). It will be interesting to see if the IFRC and ICRC take a stronger position with the Irish Red Cross on this than heretofore as there is much to lose.

The author of this blog has faith in Google’s determination (and responsibility one might add) to protect free speech, if in the highly unlikely event they release details of those who posted comments the author looks forward to finding out the names of the individuals who suggested on numerous occasions that he ‘crawl back under the rock you came from’ and the person who suggested he kill himself ‘by jumping off a bridge onto the M50’!!

On a more serious note though this blog would like to commend all those who have posted comments and who continue to post comments on the Blog. Your determination and willingness to do so in the face of legal threats is highly admirable. Courage and resilience is the only way the Irish Red Cross will ever be reformed and rescued. Fear is the greatest weapon that has been used for twenty years against Irish Red Cross reformists, whether they be volunteers, board members or staff. It is therefore up to us and only us to decide if we allow the weapon of fear be successful or not.

Tighe concluded his Sunday Times article by revisiting the unresolved issue of the undeclared Tipperary bank account when he wrote ‘The blog had called for government intervention to address problems at the charity. Among issues highlighted on the website was an undeclared Tipperary bank account containing €162,000 in donations for the victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The account, in Lawlor’s (Tony Lawlor, Vice Chairman, Irish Red Cross) branch, was discovered in late 2008’.

The full Sunday Times article (3rd October 2010) by Mark Tighe is transcribed below:


Red Cross manager faces sack

The Irish Red Cross manager who revealed himself to be the author of an anonymous blog that criticised the charity has been found guilty of gross misconduct by an internal disciplinary committee.

Noel Wardick, the IRC’s head of the international department, will probably be dismissed unless he can overturn the decision on appeal.

Wardick revealed he had written the blog after IRC took Google, the blog’s host, and UPC, the internet service provider, to the High Court in an attempt to unmask the author’s identity.

After an order for discovery was granted against UPC, it agreed to pass on Wardick’s details. This information identified him as the likely author of an anonymous email sent to alert the IRC’s members to the blog. He then revealed he was also the author of the blog.

Despite Wardick’s admission, the IRC is continuing to pursue Google through its lawyers. The charity believes many of the anonymous comments on the blog come from within the IRC and it has asked Google to provide details of all those who left remarks.

A spokesman for the charity said legal action was taken because the blog “posted internal confidential material about the IRC” which was “wilfully distorted and misconstrued”. He said the charity was taking “all appropriate legal action to obtain formal proof of the identity or identities of posters to the blog”.

Google would not comment on the action but has previously said it would “be very slow to identify any of our users unless compelled to do so”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times earlier this year, Tony Lawlor, then the acting chairman of the IRC, said he believed the blog had carried defamatory material and the charity would pursue the author for the legal costs of the case against UPC and Google.

The blog had called for government intervention to address problems at the charity. Among issues highlighted on the website was an undeclared Tipperary bank account containing €162,000 in donations for the victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. The account, in Lawlor’s branch, was discovered in late 2008. Lawlor said an “administrative error” was to blame for the money not being passed on.

On September 3, the IRC announced it would appoint “an independent firm of accountants” to investigate accusations against the Tipperary branch. It has refused to name the accountants. “The review is ongoing and no further details are available”, said its spokesman. Ends