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.

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/player_av.html?0,null,200,http://dynamic.rte.ie/quickaxs/209-r1-marianfinucane.smil

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.
Ends

The link to the above article is:

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/why-do-we-hang-whistleblowers-out-to-dry-2401289.html

Commentary on www.boards.ie, 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:

http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2056016355&highlight=Irish+Cross

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???

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:42 PM

    The management in Red Cross could not give a Sh1t what you think Mr Mc Connell, nor is your opinions important re whistleblowers. In fact you can blow this story into the wind.

    The very thought that a journalist with your experience would dare to write anything that might have an impact on the esteemed members of the Executive Committee of the Irish Red Cross Society, well, God love your wit !

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  2. Anonymous6:56 PM

    Do you know, I am waiting and hoping that the IRC DOES go ahead with their proceedings to unveil the identities of each and every Commenter on this Blog. Free speech eh, well they can't penalise us for expressing our opinions. I can't wait to find out the names and positions of some of those commenters who have left replies to Blog postings such as that above; utterly redundant statements.

    The embarrassment keeps on growing.

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  3. Anonymous6:26 AM

    I think the poster who said Irish Red Cross know nothing about henry dunant might be right. I checked their website and not a mention of the 100th anniversary of his death. Some organisation that wont even acknowledge such an important anniversary, of their founder!! i wonder did the inner sanctum as its called so often on this blog even know it was the 100th anniversary of Dunant?! They probably couldnt care less if even half what i read on this blog is true.

    After following this blog and boards.ie for a few months it seems to me that the inner sanctum people dont actually care about the broader goals and philosophy of the Red Cross but only are interested in ambulances and first aid. When it comes to ambulances and first aid though I always think of the Order of Malta and St. Johns ambulance. Everywhere I go I see them, I never see Irish Red Cross ambulances. Maybe its because of where I go but where are these Irish Red Cross ambulances and first aiders? Is is that this inner sanctum crowd want to turn the Irish Red Cross into a one function organisation like St Johns and Order of Malta? Well if they do they have a long way to go to catch up with those maltese and John people who are everywhere. Hang in there all the people fighting the good fight in the Irish Red Cross. Anyone with a brain cell is on your side and can tell this inner sanctum bunch are power hungry people who have no power in their own careers so cling on to it for dear life in the Irish Red Cross and are well past their sell by date. Sad that you guys leave them in power. Thats the part I cant understand. In my view, and this is tough love, if you leave them there then you deserve them.

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  4. Anonymous6:59 AM

    As someone said on this blog Central Council members have a legal and moral obligation to end their silence and do something. Hiding is not an acceptable excuse morally or under law. You are members of the highest structure of the Irish Red Cross and all you do is meet twice a year for a couple of hours and believe everything you are told. Asking a few 'difficult' questions and meekily accepting the answers isnt good enough. What if all the claims made in the media result in a Garda investigation? What are you all going to do then? You will all be questioned and interviewed and I do not think you can say you knew nothing because everything you need to know has been on this blog and in the media. I am not saying anyone has done anything illegal but some of the commenters on this blog have asked why not bring in the Gardai and if that happens they will first want to interview Central Council members.

    In my opinion you should not leave the November Central Council meeting until you have the resignation of the Vice Chairman Tony Lawlor who has been in power for 20 years and an instruction to him that he cannot serve on Executive again. For gods sake Central Council members dont do your usual timid display, a few questions and then all troop over to the Mont Clare for your soup and sandwiches pretending everything is ok not to be seen or heard from again for another six months. Its pathetic. If you dont want to do anything fair enough but do the decent thing and get off the Council and allow someone else in your place who has a back bone.

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  5. Anonymous9:14 AM

    The Executive were appointed to do right by the membership and have nothing to answer for as they are above reproach as honest people, appointed legitimately by the membership and the Minister of Defence to do a very difficult job as volunteers.

    The members know the truth and all those that question the Society should just go away and find a better cause rather than wasting their time. The Red Cross has nothing to hide, so anyone who questions the integrity of this great organisation should clean the mud off their own shoes first!

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  6. Anonymous5:06 AM

    "The Irish Red Cross has nothing to hide" according to a poster above. I assume the person who wrote this is a member of the Executive or the comatose Central Council or one of their little lapdogs. You are the only people in the country and the world who believe the Irish Red Cross has nothing to hide! You have so much to hide you are prepared to sue Google to prevent people finding it and to sack your Director of International Affairs to shut him up from telling the rest of us about it!

    I see from the comments on this blog that there is much talk about the Gardai. Me begins to think they may already be investigating the Irish Red Cross but then again maybe its just wishful thinking on the part of all those honest people out there.

    Hey blogger I loved the two quotes at the bottom of your last article. Summed it up great and exposed the latest governance reform process for what it really is, a sham. As your quotations from the Minister of Defence in 2000 and 2010 showed there was a governance reform process in 2000 and 2005 and nothing happened. Blogger you are right. Irish Red Cross go through these processes for show and to get the media, politicians and the International Society of the Red Cross off their back.

    What's the Jack n'Ory with your new Chairman? Does he exist? I have not heard or seen him in the media or even on your website. Maybe the appointment of your new Chairman has been cancelled just like you cancelled your independent investigation into the undeclared Tipperary bank account!!!! When are you appointing your new General Secretary? After the Prime Time embarrassment I'm surprised there wasnt a new General Secretary the very next day after Prime Time. Or have you cancelled that too?!

    Fair dues to all the people commenting on the Irish Red Cross on boards.ie, makes for great reading and some very intelligent commentary and ideas. The link is at the bottom of blogger's latest article for those who havent tuned in yet!

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  7. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Over the last months I have been searching through boxes and boxes of documents which I have kept for over 20 years and the more I find the more angry I get at this bunch who remain in power, sorry you could not call what they are doing as having power, it takes some wit to have have even a semblence of power.

    They must be crapping themselves inside Merrion Square as once they get around to sacking Noel the gloves are off and a free hand is available to all of us to go to town on each and every individual who is responsible the activities over the last 20 years. Even those who are no longer in the Executive are fair game, as all of them will be held responsible and shamed !

    So get off your horses and let us see the whites of your eyes...!

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  8. Anonymous12:47 AM

    Another week ahs passed and the information which compounds the allegations against the Executive Committee of the Irish Red Cross accumulates. Yet the important question is not being answered what is the reaction to this information.

    It would appear that the highly paid Pr person has gone to ground the New Chairman well is he? The stand in Secretary General he is like the turkey waiting for Christmas.

    The Central Council well, they’re wondering what it is awaits them at the meeting on the 20th of November. No doubt the media will be interested in this group as they appear to be totally ineffective. However the Executive need not think that the current economic problems will hide their actions nor need they think they will be somehow let off the hook.

    The International Federation are babbling away in the corridors in Geneva wondering how they will come out of this mess without being seen not to support a National Society, whilst at the same time making sure they don’t in anyway become tethered to the same post.

    It shall be an interesting few weeks keep reading this Blog the fan is about to be turned on !

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  9. Anonymous3:19 PM

    I suppose it is beyond the bounds of all possibilities that the Irish Red Cross will accept responsibility for taking the Irish people for a ride.

    Will they let the members have a copy of their accounts so that they can make the decisions to the the truth in the allegations being raised. I suspect that that it will be a cold day in hell before they allow any of this to happen.

    In the interim the fun is about to begin so do watch this space as there is nothing that beats a good old fashioned campaign !

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