Saturday, February 26, 2011

Irish Red Cross Areas to elect members to its Central Council amidst increasing concern over unanswered questions on undeclared Tipp Tsunami bank a/c

Early 2011 has seen a flurry of election and campaign activity up and down the country. One would be forgiven into thinking this has to do with Ireland’s general election. In fact it hasn’t, it has to do with the Irish Red Cross and for some the results are far more important than any general election result. As with the country the Irish Red Cross has been in the grip of a favoured few, the Irish Red Cross’s very own Ruling Elite. The consequences for the Irish Red Cross have been as equally damaging as Fianna Fáil’s stranglehold on power has been for Ireland. Yesterday’s election saw Fianna Fáil’s seemingly impenetrable power base shattered into small pieces. So yes ruling elites can fall, do fall and must fall.

Irish Red Cross supposedly has 6,000 members. How many of these will vote in the election process for Central Council representatives? How many members are actually active and involved at branch level? How many members actually attend the Area AGMs to vote in the Central Council elections. There are 26 Areas. This Blog estimates less than 500 members (8%) out of 6,000 are involved in voting for Central Council members. This presents a serious democracy deficit in the Society, one that has had severely damaging consequences over the last twenty years.

The fact that the Irish Red Cross failed to hold a General Assembly, open to all members, in 2007 and 2009, as it was obliged to do, has served to exacerbate the situation and solidify the power base of the ruling elite. Another General Assembly is due in 2011 but highly unlikely to take place. Do not be fooled by the nonsensical ‘logistical and financial reasons’ put forward by a very threatened Executive Committee for not holding a general assembly in six years. This is the same Executive Committee that spent tens of thousands of Euro’s trying to sue Google International (and failed miserably). The same Executive Committee that has wasted hundreds of thousands of Euros on exorbitant consultants’ fees and secretary general salaries. The Governance Reform ‘Proposals’ currently being examined by Central Council proposes the abolition of the requirement to hold a full General Assembly of all members and instead to rename the Central Council the ‘General Assembly’. Even Charlie Haughey would be proud of that stroke! The ruling elite will be able to declare ‘we hold a General Assembly twice every year’!!! A General Assembly, however, with only only 42 people out of 6,000 allowed to attend! Why have regimes like Iran and North Korea suddenly sprung to mind?!

So up and down the country a very small handful of Irish Red Cross members who turn up at Area AGMs will decide 26 representatives for Central Council, whose term will last three years. The remaining 16 members are appointed by the Government and their three year term expires in 2012. The newly elected (or returned) 26 members hold the future of the Irish Red Cross in their hands. They must immediately wrestle control of the Irish Red Cross back from the few on Executive Committee who deem the Irish Red Cross their own personal plaything. Central Council allowed itself be marginalised by the cabal on Executive who decide everything. Central Council is the supreme governing authority, the Executive Committee is not and the Vice Chairman and his little circle are certainly not. It can only be hoped that the hundreds and thousands of highly dedicated and committed members of the Irish Red Cross actively engage in this election. The problem in the past is not that the Cabal has massive support around the country, but rather members total indifference when it comes to such elections. The consequences of not engaging in such matters have been disastrous for the Irish Red Cross. The Cabal will no doubt actively campaign and electioneer across the 26 counties. They will make their phone calls to Areas to ensure, as one commenter on the Blog said, ‘their man’ is elected. Areas must carefully guard against this. They must nominate people of integrity, courage, honesty, strength and conviction. It can only be hoped they succeed and that such individuals are elected with a mandate to remove the Cabal and free the Irish Red Cross from twenty years of crisis and misgovernance.

Any new Central Council should prioritise the findings and extremely serious unanswered questions contained in the internal Irish Red Cross investigation into the undeclared Tipperary Tsunami bank account. The Vice Chairman, and others, have yet to be held accountable for their actions and this failure makes a mockery of promises of reform, accountability, integrity, openness and transparency. Those responsible for clear violations of Irish Red Cross finance policy over multiple years must be removed from the organisation. The good name of the Irish Red Cross demands nothing less.

This Blog article does not propose to go into detail in this instance on the glaring omissions in the internal investigation’s final report but the following sentence from the report, which references two withdrawals from the tsunami account, warrants immediate investigation:

“...and a €1,000 and separately a €100 withdrawal and subsequent return of same due to a misunderstanding between the bank and the branch.”

It must be clearly stated that NO-ONE is entitled to withdraw money from an overseas account held by a branch. Every single penny donated must be sent to Irish Red Cross HQ in Merrion Square. The internal investigation does not say who withdrew this money, why they withdrew this money, what was done with the money when it was withdrawn. More importantly the investigation report does not state WHEN this money was returned. Was it returned before or after the internal audit discovered the secret account? If the money was only returned after the head office secret audit discovered the account then a further investigation is warranted. The report refers to “a misunderstanding with the bank”. Was the bank interviewed during the internal investigation? What is the bank’s perspective on this “misunderstanding”? Do they agree there was a “misunderstanding”?

The more one examines the Tipperary Tsunami bank account the more disturbing the questions that arise. An undeclared bank account kept from head office for three years before it was discovered via a secret audit, no investigation, issue buried, Jennifer Bulbulia’s (Executive Committee member) resignation because of the organisation’s refusal to investigate, her letter to the Minister for Defence expressing deep concern, denials, denials and more denials. Headlines in national media, Prime Time investigation, political and media pressure forces an announcement of an independent investigation, a cancelled independent investigation, more scathing criticism in the national media, a deeply flawed but still damning internal investigation, withdrawals from the bank account, returned monies, misunderstandings with bank, violations of organisational finance policy over many years. And still not one single person is held accountable. Shameful, utterly shameful.

The people of Ireland have thrown out an incompetent, jaded and disgraced government. Difficult times remain but a semblance of hope has been restored. Oh that Irish Red Cross members follow the example of the Irish electorate.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Irish Red Cross Donegal Area Committee meeting abandoned amidst scenes of argument and confusion


See below taken from the Fine Gael election manifesto, page 32, launched 15th February 2011

‎"7.5 Red Cross

Red Cross: Fine Gael supports the initiation of a detailed legal review of the basis, structures and governance of the Red Cross in Ireland to improve its functioning in the light of changing circumstances."

Both Fine Gael and Labour have clearly identifed that the Irish Red Cross has serious and damaging governance problems. Their election manifestos will form the basis of their programs when in Government. The fact that they both deem it necessary to include reform of the Irish Red Cross in their future vision of a changed Ireland speaks volumes on the seriousness with which they view the current situation. It is also an indictment on the Society's failure and incapability to manage its own affairs in a transparent, competent and professional manner.


The following breaking news is unrelated to the main article below but is a very significant development and one of major importance for the Irish Red Cross so the Blog feels it important its readers are informed:

"Labour will reform the governance
structures of the Irish Red Cross to
enable it to discharge its duties more
effectively and transparently"

Taken from the Labour Party Election manifesto, P87, launched today, 11th February 2011. The Labour Party manifesto is a statement of what it intends to do if in Government. Based on current opinion polls it is very likely that Labour will be in Government within four weeks.


The Irish Red Cross Donegal Area Committee meeting scheduled to take place on Friday 4th February 2011 was abandoned soon after it started following a row and a subsequent walkout by a number of members. The walkout left the meeting without a quorum and as a result there was no option but to cancel it. The trigger for the row was the attendance at the meeting by Mr. Gerard Moyne, a lifelong and loyal member of the Irish Red Cross for the last 37 years. Mr. Moyne was asked to leave the meeting as soon as it was opened and following his ejection a number of other members left the meeting in protest at the decision, thereby forcing the meeting’s abandonment. Mr. Moyne, from and living in Donegal, has previously served on the Irish Red Cross Donegal Area Committee as well as on the national Overseas Working Group. Mr. Moyne is also a trained instructor in International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Historically Area Committee meetings are attended by officers of the various branches that make up an Irish Red Cross Area. It has also been common practice in Donegal and possibly other areas around the country that general branch members can also attend an Area Committee meeting if they are involved in Area business or for other purposes deemed relevant. It is understood and accepted by all that only branch officers, however, have voting rights at Area Committee meetings.

To understand the context of what happened in Donegal on Friday 4th February it is important to share some background information with readers.

A number of months back Mr. Moyne made contact with Bernadette Rutherford, Irish Red Cross Donegal Area Chairperson, to express, through appropriate channels, his serious concerns around matters relating to the governance of the Irish Red Cross at national level as well as the highly questionable use of money raised for overseas appeals to pay for domestic expenses. These were matters of the utmost seriousness but despite this Ms. Rutherford made no follow up contact with Mr. Moyne. It is not known if Ms. Rutherford, as would be her duty as Area Committee Chairperson, followed up Mr. Moyne’s concerns with the Irish Red Cross head office in Dublin or via the Donegal Area Central Council representative, Mr. Raymond Mackey. Mr. Moyne also wrote directly to Mr. Mackey many months ago but to date he has received no reply. Mr. Moyne contacted the Irish Red Cross Regional Office in Mayo, again no response. On numerous occasions Mr. Moyne has written to the Irish Red Cross Chairman, David J. O’ Callaghan. To-date Mr. O’ Callaghan has not responded nor acknowledged any of Mr. Moyne’s correspondence. The silence has been deafening. Serious governance problems remain.

As an Irish Red Cross member in Donegal Mr. Moyne was aware that there was an Area Committee meeting scheduled for sometime in December 2010. Mr. Moyne emailed and subsequently spoke on the phone with the Donegal Area Committee Secretary and asked when the Area Committee meeting was scheduled for as he planned to attend. Mr. Moyne was kindly given the date, time and venue by the Area Secretary. Due to inclement weather the December meeting was postponed and a new date of 4th February 2011 was set. In January 2011 Mr. Moyne was again in touch with the Area Secretary enquiring about the exact arrangements for the Area Committee meeting explaining he planned to attend. The Area Secretary informed Mr. Moyne of the date, time and location. At no stage did the Area Secretary inform Mr. Moyne that he could not attend the meeting.

On the 4th February 2011, on a dark, wet and very windy Friday evening, Mr. Moyne travelled the twenty miles from his home to attend the Donegal Area Committee meeting. Mr. Moyne entered the meeting room and sat down. Brief pleasantries were exchanged with some others present. The Chairperson of the Area Committee, Ms. Rutherford, was also in the room. Ms. Rutherford did not engage with Mr. Moyne in any shape or form. The meeting did not commence for a further twenty minutes as Ms. Rutherford and some of her colleagues were finalising matters related to the Area finances which were to be presented to the meeting.

Twenty minutes after Mr. Moyne entered the room Ms. Rutherford, as Chairperson, formally opened the meeting and welcomed all in attendance. Immediately upon opening the meeting the Chairperson addressed Mr. Moyne directly and publicly. She stated that only Irish Red Cross branch officers and not general Irish Red Cross members could attend an Area Committee meeting. If a general member wishes to attend an Area Committee meeting they must first write in advance to their Branch Secretary and obtain permission to do so, the Chairperson informed the meeting. As Mr. Moyne had not done this he was not entitled to attend and the Chairperson requested he leave immediately. Mr. Moyne, the Chairperson stated, should have written to the Fahan Branch, something he had failed to do. Despite being totally taken aback by this sudden and unexpected development Mr. Moyne asked for a copy of the rules which specifically outline such procedures. The Chairperson was unable to produce a copy. Mr. Moyne then explained that custom in Donegal had always been that general members could attend such meetings but that they had no voting rights. He was not aware this had changed and again he asked for a copy of the rules. No copy of the rules materialised. One of the officers from Fahan Branch in attendance concurred with Mr. Moyne’s interpretation of the rules. At this point the representative from the Muff Branch interjected to state ‘that we cannot have every Tom, Dick and Harry attending these meetings’. Mr. Moyne pointed out to the meeting that he was an Irish Red Cross life member for 37 years, a former Chair of the Donegal Area Committee and a former member of the national Irish Red Cross Overseas Working Group and as such he didn’t feel he constituted ‘every Tom, Dick and Harry’.

The Chairperson insisted Mr. Moyne leave the meeting and rather than further delay proceedings Mr. Moyne agreed to depart. Before doing so Mr. Moyne asked the Area Secretary to confirm to the meeting that she had on two occasions confirmed the time, dates and venue of the meeting directly to him and at no stage did she advise him that he could not attend. The Area Secretary confirmed to the meeting that this was correct.

Upon his departure from the meeting Mr. Moyne drove the twenty miles back home. Later that evening Mr. Moyne was informed that following his ejection the three members from the Fahan Branch who were in attendance walked out of the meeting. Including Mr. Moyne, this Blog understands that the departure of four people from the meeting left six remaining, a figure below the necessary quorum for a meeting to proceed. The meeting was therefore abandoned.

The manner in which Mr. Moyne was treated by the Donegal Area of the Irish Red Cross is a disgrace and brings further shame and humiliation to the organisation. The Fahan Branch members who walked out are to be commended for their actions and for their refusal to accept such behaviour. It is people like these who hold the keys to the future of the Irish Red Cross.

The reality of what happened in Donegal on the 4th February 2011 is that Mr. Moyne was left sitting in a meeting room for over twenty minutes while the Chairperson of the Area waited to publicly reprimand him and eject him from the meeting once it was started. The Chairperson did not have the courtesy or decency to even ask Mr. Moyne his reasons for attendance and if he wished to address the meeting briefly before his departure. Questions must be asked. Why did the Chairperson not quietly approach Mr. Moyne before the meeting commenced and explain her reasons in a polite and mannerly way? Why did she consciously wait until the meeting had commenced before insisting Mr. Moyne leave? Why, given that Mr. Moyne had driven twenty miles on a wintry night, was he not afforded even ten minutes prior to the Area Committee meeting officially commencing, to express his views and then depart? Why are Mr. Moyne’s legitimate concerns being ignored by the elected representatives of the Donegal Irish Red Cross? What is it they so deeply fear? Why did the Area Secretary not inform Mr. Moyne that he could not attend the meeting rather than giving him the time, date and venue on two separate occasions? When exactly did Ms. Rutherford decide she intended to eject Mr. Moyne? Was pressure brought to bear on Ms. Rutherford to make such a decision and to implement it in a deplorable, callous and unacceptable manner? If so by who exactly? This person or persons must be held accountable and removed from the Irish Red Cross. The fact, however, that the decision to eject from a meeting a highly committed and dedicated life member of the Irish Red Cross has so spectacularly and embarrassingly backfired is an indication that there is at least a glimmer of hope and that there are Irish Red Cross members out there who will not tolerate the insidious Irish Red Cross culture of intimidation, bullying, harassment and deceit.

The constant attempts by the ruling elite and their gullible footsoldiers to silence dissent, prevent criticism, ignore calls for reform and conceal the truth will never succeed.