Friday, November 26, 2010

A call in Ireland's parliament for new Irish Red Cross Secretary General and an independent investigation into the organisation

On 24th November 2010 the ongoing situation at the Irish Red Cross was the subject of a debate in Ireland’s national parliament, Dail Eireann. Deputy Finian Mc Grath, TD (equivalent to MP) spoke at length about the problems. He called for an independent investigation into the whole organisation as well as the Tipperary bank account which the current Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor, was a signatory on. Deputy McGrath also called for a new Secretary General. Declan O’Sullivan is the current Acting Secretary General who has been temporarily covering since John Roycroft resigned the post in December 2009.

Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen, responded to Deputy McGrath. Unfortunately the Minister simply read from a prepared script and repeated what he states in response to every parliamentary question he is asked on the Irish Red Cross. It is now clear that regardless of the actual question the Minister gives exactly the same response. The one comment of note, however, by the Minister was the following ‘I have also asked my officials to clarify with the Office of the Attorney General my role vis-a-vis the Irish Red Cross Society’. This statement is very significant as previously the Minister was certain in his refusal to get involved. As has been stated many times on this blog and elsewhere the 1939 Red Cross Act does in fact allow the Minister intervene directly if he deems it necessary. The involvement of the Attorney General in matters relating to the Irish Red Cross can only be welcomed and it is hoped his office will confirm to the Minister that he is NOT prohibited from intervening.

The Minister in his various responses over the last few months regularly refers to the fact that the International Red Cross has mandated that all national Red Cross Societies revise and reform their statutes and governance structures to bring them into line with best practice. This decision was taken in 2007 and Red Cross/Red Crescent societies around the world were given until 2010 to finalise this process. The Irish Red Cross has traditionally been very poorly rated within the Red Cross Movement vis a vis governance issues. It has regularly been assigned a grade of 4 on a scale where 1 represents the best governance structures and practice and 5 represents the worst. It is therefore extremely disappointing and embarrassing that despite having three years to address this matter the Irish Red Cross will have failed to reform its governance structures by the end of 2010.

With a general election likely early in the New Year and a new government in place within the first few months of 2011 it is unlikely Irish Red Cross governance reform will be top of their agenda. What is conveniently forgotten of course is that the Irish Red Cross Central Council has full authority to determine terms of office, rotation and when board members have to step down. They have full power to make these decisions. Changes to the Act are NOT necessary in this instance. Unfortunately the Central Council has failed to exercise this authority and members have allowed themselves be manipulated into believing that such matters can only be effected by legislative change.

The full text of the Dail debate is below:

Deputy Finian McGrath: I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle (Chair of the Irish Parliament) for the opportunity of raising this urgent matter regarding the management of the Irish Red Cross, particularly the dismissal case of Mr. Noel Wardick. Let us remember, before discussing the details of the case, that the Irish Red Cross is receiving over €1 million in taxpayers’ money. I have raised this urgent matter on a number of occasions with the Minister for Defence. I welcome the fact that the Minister is present to participate in the debate. It is a question of openness, transparency and justice for Mr. Wardick, whom I totally support in his quest for fair play and the protection of his human and legal rights.

I am strongly in favour of urgent reform of the Irish Red Cross. I call on the Ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs to make this a priority in the Dáil. Some people at the senior level in the organisation have got to wake up and return to their own principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. The people and taxpayers of this country want their Red Cross to act in a caring and professional manner. This is not happening at present.

I have other concerns. The Minister should investigate the undeclared Tipperary bank account in respect of which €162,000 raised for flood victims was not spent. We need a new secretary general. Following these actions, we need a full general assembly of members, staff and volunteers. Then we need a full investigation into the affairs and operations of the Irish Red Cross. The status quo should end. Reform and change represent the only way forward for the Irish Red Cross.

I strongly support the case of Mr. Noel Wardick. He was formally dismissed from the Irish Red Cross on 10 November and removed from the payroll. He is still awaiting the result of the Irish Red Cross appeal and is unable to claim the jobseeker’s allowance and other social welfare benefits. The Irish Red Cross fired him before any appeal was heard, in breach of its own policies. The Irish Red Cross refused a third party appeal, as per Mr. Wardick’s entitlements under Irish Red Cross policy. The Irish Red Cross refused Mr. Wardick’s appeal to an authority higher than that which heard the original case.

The Irish Red Cross is granting Mr. Wardick an appeal, but only to more board members - two, to be precise. The investigation hearing resulted in a finding of gross misconduct. Two additional board members issued the sanction of dismissal and now appeal, bringing the total number of board members involved in the disciplinary process to six.

Most of Mr. Wardick’s accusations concern malpractice, negligence, cronyism, abuse of power and financial irregularities. As such, having board members investigate his case is in fundamental breach of the first principle of natural justice. The accused cannot investigate the accuser. I urge the Minister to heed this in the debate.

The Irish Red Cross has only allowed Mr. Wardick a written appeal to the two board members. There will be no oral questions or clarifications. Mr. Wardick submitted written appeal documents to the Irish Red Cross and awaits the outcome. The strong objections submitted by him regarding the process itself must be addressed. He will also apply for a hearing over employment dismissal. Mr. Wardick is currently unemployed as a result of his whistleblowing activities and because he lacks a P45, he is unable to claim benefits.

Transparency International Ireland, a global organisation that monitors corruption and abuse, calls for an independent investigation into the affairs and operations of the Irish Red Cross and asks that Mr. Wardick be reinstated immediately. Transparency International Ireland made this statement publicly in a formal letter to the chairman of the Irish Red Cross. The Minister should insist that the Irish Red Cross hold this independent investigation.

For 20 years the Irish Red Cross has been bedevilled with serious governance problems, industrial relations problems and financial irregularities. The common denominator during all this time has comprised the same two or three people.

The Minister appoints the chairman of Irish Red Cross, 16 members of the 40-member central council and has representation on the Irish Red Cross executive committee. He also gives the Irish Red Cross nearly €1 million annually. His claims that he cannot act and investigate are wrong. The 1939 Act establishing the Irish Red Cross specifically allows him to intervene in day-to-day affairs. Therefore, why is it that his official from the Department of Defence is the formal administrator in the disciplinary hearing into the activities of Mr. Wardick? There cannot be any more detailed day-to-day involvement than in the disciplinary process in question, bearing in mind the identity of those centrally involved in the dismissal of Noel Wardick, who in good faith has revealed matters of public interest and has been fired for his troubles. Why is an honest and genuine whistleblower not subject to the Government’s legislation to protect whistleblowers?
I urge common sense in the making of radical changes to the Irish Red Cross. I support totally Mr. Wardick. Support is the least this House can offer.

Deputy Tony Killeen, Minister of Defence: The Irish Red Cross Society was established on 1 July 1939, pursuant to the Red Cross Act 1938. It is an independent, statute-based charitable organisation with full powers to manage and administer its affairs through its governing body, the central council. The Government has a responsibility to preserve the independence of the society.

The society has a duty to manage its affairs with due care and it is incumbent on it to manage within its budget while minimising the effects on service provision. The Minister for Defence enacts any necessary legislation in respect of the society. However, he does not have a policy role in respect of its activities. The Minister has no function in the day-to-day administration of the Irish Red Cross Society and does not involve himself in the day-to-day running of its affairs.
Ireland, as a party to the Geneva Conventions, is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. National societies carry out their humanitarian activities in conformity with their own statutes and national legislation. They must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able, at all times, to act in accordance with the principles of the International Red Cross movement. The principles under which the society achieves its objectives are humanity, universality, unity, impartiality, independence, neutrality and voluntary service. While being a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the society is legally separate and independent from this federation. The federation acts as a resource to the society rather than a monitoring body and does not have a policing role.

The central council of the Irish Red Cross Society consists of 30 members - one per local area - elected by the various society areas throughout the country and of members nominated by the Government who, in accordance with the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939, must comprise not less than one third of the total membership of the council. There are currently 16 members nominated by the Government to serve on the central council until 30 April 2012. The executive committee of the society is elected by central council from within its own ranks. It meets monthly and runs the day-to-day affairs of the society on behalf of the council. The central council elects the members of the executive committee, apart from the chairman, on an annual basis.

The Red Cross Act 1944 provides that the President of Ireland shall, by virtue of her office, be president of the society. The chairman of the central council is appointed by the President on the nomination of the Government. The society is supported by a grant-in-aid from the Department of Defence. This grant assists towards the running costs of the Society. The total amount of the grant for 2010 is €951,000. From this, the society pays the Government’s annual contribution - €131,000 - to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The latter amount has been contributed each year from 2002 to 2010.

The current governance proposals arise from a resolution passed in November 2007 by the council of delegates of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, which urged all national societies, as requested by action 3 of the strategy of the movement, to examine and update their statutes - the rules of the national societies - and related legal texts by 2010 in accordance with the guidance for national society statutes and relevant international conference resolutions. This task is being undertaken by many Red Cross and Red Crescent societies throughout the world. The current proposals have the support of the IFRC.

A working group to propose changes in governance, including those recommended by the IFRC was established in 2008. The chairman of the temporary working group presented the findings to the central council of the Irish Red Cross Society at a meeting held in November 2009 and it was received in the Department of Defence in January of this year. In order to implement the recommendations, there will be a requirement for significant amendments to the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939. Representatives of the society and officials from the Department have had a number of meetings to discuss the specific changes required and work is ongoing in that regard. A draft of the amended order has been prepared for examination by the Office of the Attorney General and the society. I have also asked my officials to clarify with the Office of the Attorney General my role vis-à-vis the Irish Red Cross Society.

The proposed changes address issues relating to higher level areas of corporate governance such as organisational structures, electoral arrangements and membership. The main areas for consideration are: the appointment of the chair; appointments to the central council; proposed changes to the terms of office, rotation and election to the executive committee; clarification of the role of the president; and the establishment of an external and independent appeals mechanism, as well as an arbitration and membership committee composed of volunteers to decide on all membership removal and applications. When the consultative process is concluded, Government approval for the change in structure will be sought and a change in legislation will ultimately be required.

In accordance with article 9 of the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939, the chairman of the society must be a member of the Central Council. In nominating persons to central council, the Government considers that it is highly desirable that the society should have on its governing body people with a wide variety of knowledge and expertise gained through work experience in both the public and private sectors and-or volunteer experience.

The new chairman, Mr. David J. O’Callaghan, who has a great deal of experience in this area, was appointed recently. The post of secretary general of the society was advertised in recent months and applications are now being examined.

In respect of the matter of alleged irregularities in the handling of funds, it is my understanding that the issue of the bank account in question is being dealt with by the society. The society has put in place new and revised procedures so that such circumstances do not recur. The full report of the internal group appointed to inquire into the matter is due to be completed shortly.
A recent disciplinary matter involving a senior member of staff was dealt with by the executive committee of the society. This resulted in the person’s dismissal from the post. As this matter is under appeal, it would not be appropriate for me to make any comment.

The Dáil (Irish Parliament) adjourned at 9.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 November 2010. ENDS

The link to the debate is below:

In addition to the many comments on this blog, continues to witness very active discussion on the Irish Red Cross. The link is below:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

11th anniversary of staff call for an independent investigation into the Irish Red Cross

Today, 23rd November 2010, marks the eleventh anniversary since that momentous day back in 1999 when nine permanent Irish Red Cross employees courageously went on Irish national television (RTE) and called on the Irish Government to immediately launch an independent enquiry into the running of the organisation.

The Irish Red Cross had a much smaller head office than it does today so nine staff constituted most of the permanent employees. The brave nine staff, who had reached the end of their patience with the organisation’s controlling board members, were interviewed on RTE TV by one of Ireland’s best known and most respected investigative journalists, Charlie Bird. The staff were supported in their action by at least one member serving in a governance position.

The staff made it clear that their unprecedented action was taken for one reason and one reason only, to protect the integrity of the Society. The people in charge of the Irish Red Cross back in 1999 are still the same people dominating the organisation today. It is deeply saddening that the crisis of 1999 did not lead to real change or reform but rather the empty promises that were made remain unfulfilled. As a direct result the Irish Red Cross remains in permanent crisis and will do so until fundamental restructuring of its governance takes place and a completely new leadership installed.

So on this day, 23rd November 2010, this Blog would like to acknowledge the true bravery, daring and courage of those nine Irish Red Cross staff and the individuals who supported them in their bold stand against incompetence, power and misgovernance. They will forever be able to hold their heads high.

The full text of the RTE news article (on its web) which followed the RTE TV appearance is below:

Irish Red Cross staff calls on government to set up inquiry

23rd November 1999

The Secretary General of the Red Cross, Paul Lynch, has responded to today's call by its staff for an independent investigation into the running of the charity. In a statement, Mr Lynch said that the Irish Red Cross Society, with the assistance of an outside consultant, is nearing the completion of a strategic review. He said that the review's implementation would necessarily involve change for volunteers and staff.

However, a spokesperson for the workforce said that they did not believe the review was truly independent. The representative said that the investigation staff would need to look at the overall structures of the organisation, starting at the very top.

Most of the permanent staff of the Irish Red Cross have called on the Government to set up an inquiry into the running of the organisation. In an exclusive interview with RTÉ News, the staff members of what is regarded as one of the most prestigious charities in the country, say that they are taking this step in an effort to protect the integrity of the organisation. They also want the 1939 Act, which set up the Red Cross, amended to bring it into line with modern practices.

The Irish Red Cross is almost 60-years-old, but today morale at its headquarters, at Merrion Square in Dublin, is at an all time low according to the majority of those who work there. Last night, in an unprecedented public revolt, nine of the staff came together for RTÉ News to call on the Government to set up an investigation into the running of the charity.

The Red Cross, whose patron is the President of Ireland, comes under the aegis of the Department of Defence. Last year, it received over £500,000 from the state. It also collects millions of pounds every year for disaster relief. The staff is not claiming any impropriety in the handling of donations, but they say that on occasions, there has been a 'slowness' in sending out funds specifically collected for emergency relief.

In the last two years, the organisation has lost almost half of its senior staff, including its Secretary General, the public relations officer, a youth director and a fund-raiser and a clerical officer. In October of this year, the sacking of the financial controller led to calls for his reinstatement from the majority of the staff. A case is now being taken against the charity for unfair dismissal.

Staff also claim that deep divisions have emerged between the permanent staff and the executive over the running of the organisation. The staff says that the only way to solve the long running difficulties is an independent inquiry, which they say should also involve the International Red Cross.

The link for the article is:

It is not the critic who matters; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but he who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat-Theodore Roosevelt, 26th American President

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Irish Red Cross Whistleblower to appeal decision according to media reports

On 14th November the Sunday Independent newspaper, Ireland’s biggest selling Sunday publication, contained the following article on the dismissal of Noel Wardick, former Head of International Department at Irish Red Cross:

Irish Red Cross whistleblower to appeal dismissal

Author of critical blog vows to continue speaking out against charity’s ‘toxic culture’

By Daniel McConnell, Chief Reporter

The Irish Red Cross whistleblower, who was fired last Tuesday, is to appeal his dismissal, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

The Irish Red Cross (IRC) has confirmed that Noel Wardick, a former head of international development, has been sacked.

“Following a disciplinary process, Mr Wardick’s employment with the Irish Red Cross has been terminated with effect from November 10th. Mr Wardick is entitled to appeal this decision,” the organisation said in a statement issued to the Sunday Independent.

Mr Wardick said he was determined to fight on.

He was suspended with pay in September after he revealed himself to be the author of an online blog that was highly critical of the organisation.

The issue is expected to dominate the IRC’s central council meeting next week.

Mr Wardick got himself in trouble for highlighting what the ex-international development chief described as a ‘toxic culture’ in the IRC, which he said was controlled by a small number of powerful people.

Mr Wardick added that his sacking would not stop him from speaking out about what was wrong at the IRC.

He said his dismissal occurred because he was a whistleblower.

“My dismissal will do nothing to dampen my determination to see fundamental change at the IRC”, he said.

He added that he had written to David O’Callaghan, the new Chairman of the IRC “on matters of serious concern. He has neither responded nor acknowledged any of my correspondence. He has made no effort to contact me whatsoever”.

Key to Mr Wardick’s concerns was how €162,000 in donations to victims of the Asian tsunami remained in a Tipperary bank account for more than three years.

He also questioned the delays in appointing a full time new Chairman and Secretary General.

Defence Minister Tony Killeen’s repeated refusal to intervene in the IRC controversy has been heavily criticised by the opposition.

Fine Gael defence spokesman David Stanton said: “The minister continues to sit on his hands while the reputation of the Irish Red Cross is being hammered.

“This is having a real impact on the thousands of hard working volunteers around the country. He needs to tackle the governance structures so the Red Cross can put this whole sorry episode behind it and move on,” he added.

On a separate matter:

Noel Wardick’s dismissal also carried on Whistleblowers Ireland website at:

And also:

The Central Council may make rules, not inconsistent with this Order, in relation to all or any of the following matters, that is to say:-
a) The organisation of the society
b) The management, control and procedure of the Society
c) The appointment and terms of office of officers of the Society
d) An extraordinary general meeting of the Central Council may be called at any time by the President of the Society or by the Chairman of the Central Council
e) Any other matter which in the opinion of the Central Council, it is expedient to provide for in order to enable the Society effectively to carry out its objects and exercise all or any of its powers.

Above from Rules of the Irish Red Cross.

Irish Red Cross rules clearly demonstrate that decision making power, including that relating to how long persons can remain on Executive and/or as Honorary Officers, rests with Central Council, and no-one else, not the Executive, not the Secretary General, not Geneva, not the Irish Government. As such the Central Council can decide, say for example, that no person can remain on Executive or in an honorary officer position for more than six years. Central Council could also decide, if it so agreed, that any Executive Committee member or honorary officer who has been in position for say, more than ten years, must immediately step down next May and not put themselves forward again, for say a minimum of three/four years. Such decisions would finally bring Irish Red Cross into line with normally accepted good charity/corporate governance practice. It would also ensure we are no longer at variance with International Red Cross guidelines on governance and board structure.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Irish Red Cross Head of International Department sacked

Yesterday I was informed by the Irish Red Cross that I am to be dismissed from my job with immediate effect.

My determination to see significant change and reform at the Irish Red Cross remains undiminished. I will continue to pursue this with vigour, resolve and fortitude.

The 6,000 volunteers of the Irish Red Cross, the staff at home and abroad and most of all the communities and people we seek to serve deserve better and better they must have. To achieve this everyone will need to play their part, whether big or small. The status quo must not and cannot remain.

My dismissal was raised on the floor of Dail Eireann yesterday (9th November 2010) by Deputy Brendan Howlin of the Labour Party during a debate on whistle blowing legislation. The debate was covered on RTE national television on Oireachtas Report on the 9th November 2010. Deputy Howlin’s comments on the Irish Red Cross can be seen on the RTE link below. The discussion occurs between 20 minutes and 24 minutes.

The Irish Red Cross is at a critical crossroads. The choice is between the past or an open, transparent, accountable, modern, vibrant, energetic and truly democratic organisation. I am confident the vast majority of us wish for the latter. And that provides my motivation to continue.

Noel Wardick

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reeling back the years: Irish Red Cross problems extend back decades

During the last eleven months Irish media and this Blog have referred to the decade’s long nature of Irish Red Cross problems and dysfunction. The current problems and media revelations have all existed for many years and Irish media and Irish politicians have been writing about them and asking parliamentary questions about them since the mid 1980’s. The problems intensified and worsened during the 90’s and during the first decade of the 21st century. The common denominator during all these years is the same handful of people who control and dominate the Irish Red Cross.

The Blog therefore thought it important to give readers a flavour of the historical nature of these problems. Below can be found two separate links to a series of parliamentary questions on the Irish Red Cross from 1998 and 1991 respectively. In addition to these links the Blog has also transcribed the full content from an Irish Times article dated February 1998 which reports on serious problems within the Society at that time. All of the material below is a very small representative sample from the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) and media archives on the Irish Red Cross.

The first link below relates to parliamentary questions asked by Deputy Pat Rabbitte, Labour Party, on 15th December 1998. Deputy Rabbitte asks a number of questions including the following:

· Asked the Minister if his attention has been drawn to reports of serious industrial relations problems within the Irish Red Cross; the plans, if any, he has to take any action to try to secure a settlement of these problems.
· Asked the Minister for Defence if there is a staff representative on the Executive Committee of the Irish Red Cross; if not, the plans, if any he has to provide for a staff representative.
· Asked the Minister for Defence if any of the government’s grant-in-aid to the Irish Red Cross has been used in regard to legal costs incurred by the Society and its acting general secretary in a case taken by the former general secretary

The second link below covers a series of parliamentary questions asked by Deputy Jim O’Keefe, Fine Gael, about the Irish Red Cross on the 12th June 1991 and the ensuing discussion that takes place between him, the Deputy Cheann Comhairle (Deputy Chairman of the Parliament) and the then Minister for Defence, Mr. Brendan Daly. The lengthy discussion that takes place concerns an unseemly, bitter and embarrassing row between members of the Irish Red Cross Executive Committee and the Irish Red Cross Chairman at the time, Derry O’Donovan. At one stage during the debate Deputy O’Keefe states “the Government are guilty of gross negligence and dereliction of duty in not facing up to the issue, in not proposing the name of the new chairman for appointment by the President”.$query1%29%3C%3DDATE%3C%3D%28$query2%29%29%20AND%20%28%28$query4%29%29%3ASPEAKER%20AND%20%28%28$query5%29%29%3Aheading%20AND%20%28%28$query6%29%29%3ACATEGORY%20AND%20%28%28$query3%29%29%3Ahouse%20AND%20%28%28$query7%29%29%3Avolume%20AND%20%28%28$query8%29%29%3Acolnumber%20AND%20%28%28$query%29%29&query1=19910601&query2=19910630&query5=Irish%20Red%20Cross&docid=271551&docdb=Debates&dbname=Debates&sorting=none&operator=and&TemplateName=predoc.tmpl&setCookie=1

The following newspaper article is taken from the Irish Times, February 1998:

Former FG minister takes over at Irish Red Cross as secretary-general resigns


The former Fine Gael minister for finance, Mr. Richie Ryan, has taken over the running of the Irish Red Cross Society following the departure of its secretary general, Mr. Martin Good.

Mr. Good’s resignation two weeks ago followed a series of internal disagreements and industrial relations problems within the organisation. It is believed he left after a substantial severance settlement was agreed with the society.

Mr. Ryan was appointed last May as the fourth chairman of the Irish Red Cross in seven years, shortly before the rainbow coalition government left office.

A number of other senior staff, including the public relations officer, youth officer and fund-raising manager, have left the society recently.

Tension rose in recent months between Mr. Good and members of the 12-member Executive Committee, which takes an active interest in the running of the society.

Mr. Good was not chosen to represent the organisation at a major conference organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Seville last November, although three members of the executive committee attended.

Mr. Good was appointed secretary general in September 1991 for three years, and his contract was later made permanent. Speaking from Geneva last night, he confirmed he had resigned on February 5th. He declined to comment further.

Industrial relations difficulties flared up last autumn after management proposed a restructuring plan. After one member of staff was appointed to a newly created senior post colleagues complained to their union, SIPTU, that no interviews were conducted.

SIPTU took the matter to the Labour Court, which appointed an intermediary to mediate between the two sides. According to Mr. Mike Jennings of SIPTU, the industrial relations problems have been ongoing for some time.

The charity incurred legal costs of more than £100,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to confirm its expulsion of one central council member, Mr. Jim Walsh, for talking to the Irish Times in 1993. The Supreme Court ruled that the Irish Red Cross did not have the power to expel Mr. Walsh retrospectively. He had been a member for 35 years. Mr. Ryan said yesterday the society had agreed not to comment on Mr. Good’s departure.

The Red Cross received £535,000 in Government grants last year, of which £100,000 went to pay the annual subscription to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Salaries amounted to £370,000. The overall turnover was £1.9 million last year.

According to sources, the ICRC is “displeased” at the number of party political nominees involved in the Irish organisation.

Mr. Ryan said he had “heard this view expressed” in Geneva. However, he pointed out that the number of political nominees on the central council had fallen from 22 to 16, out of 40 members.
The Irish Red Cross Society was set up by an Act of Oireachtas in 1939. The President of Ireland is by law its president.

Aside from Government funds, it raises money through general subscriptions and special appeals. In recent years, however, appeals have met a varied response. An appeal for the volcano victims in Monserrat raised only £160 last year, but tens of thousands of pounds were raised for the victims of land-mines.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce-Karl Marx

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State-Unknown

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whistleblowers, including those in the Irish Red Cross, should be protected-Sunday Independent

On 31st October 2010 the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s largest selling Sunday newspaper, published an article on Whistleblowing and specifically discussed the situation prevailing at the Irish Red Cross. The full article is posted below. In addition to the Sunday Independent article the Irish Red Cross and the suspension of Noel Wardick, its Head of International Department, was discussed on RTE’s (national broadcaster) Marian Finucane radio program (31st October 2010). The Marian Finucane radio program has one of Ireland’s highest weekend listenership. Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen, was a panel guest on the show. The Minister reiterated his view, disputed by this Blog, that he cannot intervene in matters pertaining to the Irish Red Cross. The discussion can be heard by clicking the link below. The Irish Red Cross conversation can be found by moving the ‘play dial’ to approximately 1 hr and 5 mins of the show’s duration.,null,200,

Full Sunday Independent article:

Why do we hang whistleblowers out to dry?

Doing the right thing in this country just seems to gets you nowhere, writes Daniel McConnell
Ireland has a woefully poor record of protecting and rewarding whistleblowers, much to our cost.
Many of the great scandals in recent Irish history -- like the Dirt (Deposit Interest Retention Tax) inquiry in AIB (one of Ireland’s biggest banks) -- only came to light as a result of the actions of brave people, willing to risk their livelihoods and financial security to bring corruption, malpractice or incompetence to light.

We journalists know, appreciate and cherish the courage and gallantry of whistleblowers.
These are people who risk it all to tell the truth, to stand up to their bosses, to be honest brokers in a country where such honesty is punished, not rewarded, time and time again.

Legislation has been long promised on protecting those who raise their heads and speak out, but as of yet, there is no sign of it.

"The Government has refused to give the necessary protection to whistleblowers in the banking sector. The proposed legislation would not have protected Ireland's two noblest whistleblowers, Eugene McErlean and Tony Spollen, who both blew the whistle on AIB," said my colleague Senator Shane Ross, who has worked tirelessly to highlight their efforts.

Their efforts were crucial in revealing one of the great swindles of all time by Irish banks.
But now we have the latest case involving the troubled Irish Red Cross. In recent months, the once venerable charity has been dogged by a series of controversies and scandals.

Its head of international development, Noel Wardick, was suspended from his position after he revealed himself as the author of a blog which highlighted serious instances of poor governance and financial irregularities at the charity.

In the middle of this extraordinary affair is €162,000 of donations which lay idle in a Tipperary bank account for three years.

An inquiry by independent 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 (Irish Parliament) as being simply not credible.

A truly transparent and independent inquiry into the allegations and the mysterious case of the Tipperary bank account is the only way the IRC can ensure that its excellent reputation can be restored.

For bringing all this to light and asking that things change, Mr Wardick is now facing the sack on the grounds of gross misconduct, confirmation of which is due any day now.

It's a bloody disgrace.

Mr Wardick, like Mr Spollen and Mr McErlean, should be commended for his dedication to upholding decent standards in the face of grubby cronyism. He should be protected by law and he should be recognised as one of the good guys. He told the truth, he bravely spoke out against incompetence and corruption.

But what has happened, is that large amounts of money are being used to wage war against Mr Wardick. To discredit him. Rather than listen to what he is saying or fix it, those in charge of the IRC waste thousands of euros in pursuing him.

And all the while, Defence Minister Tony Killeen refuses to intervene, despite almost €1m of taxpayers' money being handed over every year and the fact that he appoints the chairman.

If Mr Wardick is sacked, it will represent the gravest of injustices and sends a powerful message that incompetence, negligence and cronyism are acceptable and that doing the right thing will get you nowhere.

It has been eight years since legislation was first promised, but as of yet to no avail.
Fine Gael's (Ireland’s main Opposition party) Brian Hayes said that Mr Wardick deserves to be protected not sacked. "The case of Noel Wardick and the Irish Red Cross highlights the urgent need to protect whistleblowers. It's now over eight years since the Government first promised legislation in this area."

He added: "The fact the Fianna Fail (Government party) has not produced legislation and have voted down a Private Member's Bill from the opposition clearly demonstrates that the Government doesn't want people to speak out and doesn't want to protect those public servants who want to shine a light on malpractice and waste."

And the legislation that has been promised stops well short of offering any real protection to those who speak out.

"Whistleblowing laws that are introduced which fail to cover the most important cases, mean the Minister for Justice is simply indulging in publicity stunts," Mr Ross said.

It's time Ireland came out of the dark ages -- It's time we not only protect whistleblowers, but cherish them.

Mr Wardick, like Mr Spollen and Mr McErlean before him, has genuinely done this State some service, and for that they deserve our support and our thanks.

The link to the above article is:

Commentary on, one of Ireland’s leading web discussion forums, continues apace on the Irish Red Cross. The link to the discussion, with over 125 comments, is below:

I am informed that the strategic review of the Irish Red Cross will encompass the views and opinions of all organs of the Society to ensure the strengthening and development of the Society. I understand this review will be inclusive, involving volunteers and all staff members. The Red Cross is being assisted by a consultant in these matters. It is intended that the review will be completed by the middle of 2000. It may transpire that legislative changes may be required at that time and my Department will respond as required in this regard” -Minister of Defence, Michael Smith, February 2000

Nearly eleven years later, with no governance reform following the 2000 Strategic Review process and the 2005 Tom Finlay report into Governance at Irish Red Cross abandoned....

The formal report of the Working Group established by the Irish Red Cross Society to examine the issue of governance was received in the Department of Defence in January of this year. In order to implement the recommendations made there will be a requirement for significant amendments to the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939. Representatives of the Society and officials from the Department of Defence have had a number of meetings to discuss specific changes required to the 1939 Order and work is ongoing in that regard..” –Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen, October 2010

Should we be hopeful or will history repeat itself as it has done for twenty years, a period in which no reform has materialised???