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.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:29 AM

    Will we see the same devastation in the political empire of Fianna Fail be refelcted in the political empire they have built within the walls of Merrion Square. Will the new masters at the helm be willing to scuttle the good ship Lawlor and all his cronies in the depths from which they came!

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  2. Anonymous6:19 AM

    Congratulations to the Kildare Area of the Irish Red Cross. Because of serious concerns they have in relation to Governance and Procurement issues on a national level at the Society they unilaterally decided to produce a Procurement Policy Review Working Group from within the Kildare Area. They have produced a top class professional document which has been sent to head office and to all Central Council members. The concerns of the Kildare Area about governance etc was exacerbated significantly when, upon their request, the Kildare Area was sent a copy of the IRC Procurement Policy. This Policy was prepared by the Irish Red Cross Head of Finance and authorised by the ex Acting Secretary General. The Kildare Area Review Group, which was comprised of senior professionals in the area of procurement and governance, issued a withering criticism of the Irish Red Cross Policy, which can only be described as amateurish, poorly researched and entirely inadequate. Those head office staff who wrote it and those on Executive who approved it should be held to account for producing such a poor document, one that leaves the Irish Red Cross wide open to abuse and misuse of resources.

    Noel Wardick and others have consistently raised concerns about procurement practices in the Irish Red Cross, especially the close involvement of the Vice Chairman, the Treasurer and former Treasurer in purchasing decisions. The scathing critique by the Kildare Area of the IRC Procurement Policy provides total vindication to all those who have questioned and queried Irish Red Cross procurement and purchasing practice. Given the appallingly weak Procurment Policy written by the IRC Finance Dept. it is no wonder that Executive Committee members have been allowed breach Irish Red Cross finance policy for years and get away with it scot free.

    Congratulations to the Kildare Area on a great peice of work. The document should be sent to all members. We now have the Kildare Area expressing its concerns, the Cork Area has voted no-confidence in three senior managers, members in the Galway Area have challenged the Ruling Elite Executive Committee member there and the Fahnn Branch in Donegal stood up to the attempted bullying of Gerry Moyne by senior Area representatives. So message for the Ruling Elite: internal opposition to your disgraceful rule is growing and growing....

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  3. Anonymous2:12 AM

    This is Comment 1 and should be read together with the number of comments which follow. Each Comment will be numbered so readers will know which comments relate to this topic. Well done for sure to the Kildare Area for the great document they produced and for the comment above which highlighted the report. It says alot about the dysfunctional crisis ridden nature of the Irish Red Cross when the Executive Committee and senior management of the Irish Red Cross havent the capacity to produce proper governance or procurement policies and it has to be done by hard working volunteers in their spare time who so so because of their grave concern about what is happening.

    Why cant we have the Kildare Area represented on the Executive Committee along with some others who know what they are talking about and lets get rid of the current crew who are long past their sell by date.

    Here are some sections taken directly from the Kildare Area report. They are continued in the other Comments.

    Given the widespread public and membership adverse comment, Kildare Area has asked our Central Council rep to raise this matter at the upcoming CC meeting. Can you (Secretary General) please arrange to have this item put down as an agenda item.

    Can you (Secretary General) please bring the contents of the enclosed report to the attention of any consultants or advisors working with the IRC in the area of procurement or Governance generally

    The recent adverse publicity surrounding certain activities of the Irish Red Cross at national level were the subject of intense discussions at two well attended Kildare Area meetings

    Members present, several with 40 years unit service, expressed unease at the range of procurement related risk control features that were not addressed in the IRC procurement document

    It is the hope of Kildare Area members that appropriate professional skills in the area of Procurement and Corporate Governance will be brought to bear as a matter of priority to address the matters noted herein

    Those volunteering time, money and commitment to Irish Red Cross are entitled to expect that core principles of appropriate governance, transparency and value for money considerations apply to Irish Red Cross

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  4. Anonymous2:13 AM

    Comment 2

    The Kildare Area document contained a section entitled 'Document Shortcomings'. This section outlines 18 shortcomings with the Irish Red Cross Procurement Policy. A selection of these 18 points are as follows:

    There was no evidence in the procurement policy document of a culture of maximising value for money of every euro donated to Irish Red Cross through the consistent use of appropriate procurement practices and processes

    There is no written commitment to an open, fair, transparent procurement process contained within the procurement policy document

    There is an absence of written procedures in the procurement policy document to ensure the avoidance of a conflict of interest by those in any way associated with the procurement function

    There is an absence of written, mandatory, guidance in respect of the treatment and disclosure of any gifts or benefits offered by suppliers or potential suppliers to those involved in any way with the procurement function contained with the procurement policy document

    There is no evidence that any strategic thought has been brought to bear to identify areas where value can be optimised by using a tiered approach to procurement activity

    NB: There is a reference in the procurement policy document to the effect that purchases from a sole source "shall be explained in the purchase file". This appears, on the face of it, to be a meaningless statement. It also appears to be a recipe for a governance collapse

    NB: As a general observation, it seemed to the (Kildare Area) working group that there seemed to be little awareness of the value of having comprehensive, robust and transparent written procurement processes-especially in times of heightened public concern about the general governance of the Irish Red Cross at strategic level

    We (Kildare Area) see no evidence that appropriate procurement and governance expertise was brought to bear in formulating the recently issued Head Office Procurement Policy document

    The procurement document is entirely silent on the matter of tendering. The procurement policy document contains no guidance as to the situations where tendering will apply or indeed how tendering processes will operate to maximise the value to Irish Red Cross

    There are no written prohibitions on sub-dividing orders to bring the purchases below the appropriate level order approval or authorisation

    In the absence of any stated compensating controls we are at a loss to understand why expenditures associated with Niger and Tsunami appear to be entirely outside the scope of the procurement policy.

    The procurement document takes a "value per transaction" approach as the criteria for determining which of the two existing procurement procedures should be used. This approach can lead to inappropriate purchasing decisions. The purchasing procedure decision should be based on annual or multi annual expenditure profiles. This approach provides a far greater potential to optimise savings for Irish Red Cross

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  5. Anonymous2:31 AM

    Comment 3 deals with the recommendations made by the Kildare Area. A selection of the 13 recommendations made are as follows:

    A comprehensive procurement policy and procedures document should be developed as a matter of priority and incorporated into the procurement policy document

    Such a procurement document should be based on international best practice norms

    NB: The proposed procurement document should be reviewed and endorsed by professionals in the area of procurement and corporate governance

    When prepared, the procurement document should be approved at the highest levels within Irish Red Cross and then published in a transparent manner

    A written Code of Practice addressing the area of conflict of interest for all involved in Red Cross activities should be published

    There should be a formal written commitment to open, fair and transparent procurement procedures

    A written code of practice should be developed and published addressing the matter of receipt of gifts or hospitality by members or employees of Red Cross

    All Codes of Practice should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they continue to meet their stated objectives. All Codes of Practice and associated governance policies should be clearly and prominently published on the website of the organisation

    Expenditure governance controls must be, and seen to be, regarded as a core organisational value

    The practice of benchmarking quotations against budget should cease immediately. The only expenditure evaluation criteria should be value for money

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  6. Anonymous4:24 AM

    As someone who has worked in organizational development in the wider International Red Cross / Crescent Movement, I am horrified by the lack of professional ism in IRC and at the same time delighted by that of volunteers in Kildare Branch on this issue.
    The International Movement of Red Cross/ Crescent is recognized as a world leader in logistics and procurement and IRC can readily tap into this expertise. The IRC with government grant pays its annual contribution to the International Movement and is entitled to draw down on this expertise and “off the shelf” policies and standing orders.
    The reason for not accessing or developing such policies and procedures as are readily available to IRC (either from Kildare or Geneva) is again the worry and leads to further questions of IRC integrity. So long as the existing culture of the IRC remains, then professional ways of doing business and of transparency and accountability will remain unachievable.
    I learned from both text-book and experience that the 1st and often most difficult issue to address in organizational development is that of governance. As with other failed Red Cross National Societies in the past, it was found necessary for a complete re-organisation to take place. A new Secretary General or new policies (however good) will not solve the problems and bring back public confidence. I suggest that the new Government / Department of Defense should be lobbied to instigate a full re-organisaton involving stand-down / suspension of existing governance and staffing and with a period of contracted oversight management leading to a process of election and re-application. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent could be invited to send an organizational development delegate of standing who together with a Government appointed professional would assist in technical support to the process under direction of an approved Working Group of external professionals.
    Is it nearing the time to organise a public demonstration of concern and demand for change in IRC if we are to progress?

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  7. Anonymous6:09 AM

    Comment 4 deals with other comments from the Kildare Area report. A selection of these are as follows:

    There has been a palpable negative reaction in the Kildare Area arising from recent media coverage of significant lapses in governance of the Irish Red Cross at national level

    Members, particularly those with very long service and those who volunteer for uniformed duties, are becoming increasingly uneasy about the lack of credible responses from national level personnel

    This unease has been formally aired at the last two quarterly Kildare Area meetings

    Significant discussion centered on various unfavorable media comment about the corporate governance of the Head Office of Irish Red Cross arose during the course of quarterly Area meetings

    Concern was expressed at the meetings about the apparent lack of strategic governance and poor quality interaction with the national media

    A perceived lack of transparency in the tender process was also raised

    It became clear (to the Kildare Area) that the contents of the Irish Red Cross Procurement Policy fell well short of the expectations of those present at the meeting under a range of headings

    The Kildare Area Working Group availed of high level expertise provided by a procurement professional that provides guidance to internationally recognised organizations in the procurement area. This expertise was provided on a voluntary basis to the Kildare Area

    Comment 4 above concludes the series of comments on the excellent piece of work carried out by the Kildare Area. Hopefully the Kildare Area Central Council representative will attend the next CC meeting, provisionally scheduled for March 5th although head office has provided no details of location, time, agenda and more importantly a range of documents for review. Probably head office, on behalf of their masters on Executive, up to their old games again. By the way have people seen the minutes from the last Central Council meeting? Another white washed set of minutes. Virtually all discussion and debate that took place around governance reform, Noel Wardick's case, Transparency International's calls for Wardick to be reinstated, the negative media coverage, the fact that the CC is the supreme authority not Executive etc is completely omitted from the minutes. As the Blogger said regimes such as North Korea and Iran spring to mind.

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  8. Anonymous7:49 AM

    Its not just the Cork Area, Kildare Area, Galway Area and Donegal Area that has growing opposition to the powers that be on Executive who have wrecked the Irish Red Cross. The Dun Laoighre/Rathdown Area has formally written to Central Council and Executive on a number of occasions expressing concern about governance, management, the failure to hold a general assembly since 2005, the secretary general's high salary level and the length of time certain members have served on Executive. Members of the DL/Rathdown Area are young, intelligent, bright, dynamic, optimistic, enthusiastic and eager for change. They represent the exact opposite of those individuals who have sat on Executive for between 10 and 20 years. Needless to say the Executive Committee views people like the crew in DL/Rathdown very nervously. There is also a member very active on the Irish Red Cross facebook page who has spoken some home truths and challenged the inner sanctum.

    This growing opposition needs to organise itself and begin making contact with each other and gelling into a real force. O'Callaghan and Forde want Lawlor and co gone as soon as possible but they need members to do it for them as they cannot achieve this on their own. If Forde makes a move on Lawlor he will be fired so members its your organisation so please rescue it.

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  9. Anonymous7:53 AM

    I heard the Vice Chairman was totally sidelined for the European Youth conference hosted by the Irish Red Cross in Ireland last weekend, 25th, 26th and 27th Feb. He wasnt permitted to make any of the opening speeches from what I heard. This was handled by the Chairman and the new SG. Proper order. The Vice Chairman should be expelled from the Society but while plans for that are put in place sidelining him will suffice in the interim

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  10. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Don't be fooled with the sidelined bit, Mr Lawlor has with much assistance taken the Society down to the courts a few times and like the ex Teflon Taoiseach does not give a toss as he is oblivious to criticism. The whole Executive Committee and many others within the Central Council do not have the capacity nor the insight to see their actions for what they are, immoral and unforgiving.

    Who else would have the nerve to stay in any organisation given the level of damning information that has come out in this blog and that has been put in letters before the Council. They should bow their heads in shame. The sooner they all go the better.

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  11. Anonymous12:36 AM

    The Central Council I beleive meet this weekend at the Alexander Hotel in Dublin this meeting although known verbally for sometime has only officially been notified to Central Council in the last few days. This once again is a display of the contempt management have for the memebrs as the issues to be raised before this meeting the members present will not have had time to disuss with the memebrs whom some of them represent.
    Perhaps there is a reason for this short notice. But this should not inhibit anyone who wishes to go to the Alexander hotal and demonstarate against the tyranny that prevails within the Irish Red Cross.

    When will the Gardai have an official investigation into the Haiti Appeal and the mis-governance of funds whom donors clearly thought they were giving to this Appeal. Glad to see Shane Ross as a TD maybe his next book wasters 2 will cover the Red Cross management.

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  12. Last week I sent a letter to all central Council Representatives as of today none to the best of my knowledge have received it ! I sent the latter as per instructions of head Office ie through the proper procedures. I shall psot this letter now in my next post and email it also to all concerned ! I still have not received any of the documentation as requested on the 15th November 2010 under the Data Protection Act, the Society remains in breach of the law on this matter and I presume after the invertigation has taken place the Society will be duly repremanded for breaking the law.

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  13. 18 February 2011
    To all Central Council members.

    Posted here in two parts.

    Dear Colleagues,

    I wrote to all of you in November 2010 and I would like to thank most sincerely the three Central Council members who responded to my letter. Some have suggested that no response was necessary and indeed given the amount of information that has been given to you to date it is probably beyond anyone’s ability to respond to the revelations which have been exposed to you directly and within the Blog. Still though inaction is never the answer to solving problems and I hope that is something that can change.

    I now write to you, to appeal to your better judgement in the hope that you will act. I ask that you speak out against the fundamental wrongs taking place within the Irish Red Cross. I have spoken of this for over twenty years and can stand firm over my conviction that those responsible must be held accountable for their unacceptable actions and behaviour. The flame of madness they have kindled must be extinguished.

    I have no doubt that the majority of you are good honest hardworking individuals with absolutely no intention of consciously harming anyone, yet inaction and silence in the face of deep rooted problems and immoral actions such as diverting overseas funds to pay for domestic activities, misgovernance, mismanagement, negligence, bullying, harassment and intimidation, causes real harm and untold damage to the Irish Red Cross. As Central Council members I appeal to you to honour your fiduciary responsibilities and address the crisis within the Irish Red Cross.

    The findings of the internal investigation into the Tipperary Tsunami bank account prove beyond doubt that all is not well within the Irish Red Cross. And yet no-one has been held accountable. It is a lack of accountability and responsibility that has ruined this country and similarly it is ruining the Irish Red Cross.

    I ask that you not ignore the fact that two major political parties, Fine Gael and Labour, one of whom and possibly both, will shortly be in government, have singled out the Irish Red Cross in their manifesto as requiring fundamental governance changes. Our future government has in effect recognised that without their intervention the Irish Red Cross is on a path of self destruction. Not one other charity in the whole country is singled out like this. This is a terrible indictment on the Irish Red Cross and is a huge humiliation for all our hard working and committed members. The incoming Government has deemed it necessary to intervene directly simply because the Irish Red Cross has failed to properly regulate its own affairs. Many of the allegations I have made over the past twenty years as well as those on the Blog have now been proved to be correct and those that have yet to be proved we have called for independent investigations, which I have no doubt will prove them accurate. Why has the Irish Red Cross failed to mount a defence to my allegations, to the allegations on the Blog and the hundreds of questions asked in Dail Eireann? The answer is because it cant, because the allegations are correct and truthful.

    The Red Cross was founded in 1864 to combat the real enemy as stated by Henry Dunant:

    “The enemy, our real enemy, is not the neighbouring country; it is hunger, cold poverty, ignorance, routine, superstition, prejudice.”
    Henry Dunant

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  14. Letter to all Central Council Reps.

    Part two of Letter

    I beg you to read his book “In Memory of Solferino”. Here you will find the real meaning why you and I have committed ourselves to the humanitarian struggle which we do proudly through the Red Cross. If we do not combat the malevolent wrongs and the obsession with power and control which pervades the core of the Irish Red Cross then we will have failed not only ourselves but all that rely on the protection of the Red Cross.

    In the past and still to this day I have been castigated by those threatened by the truth and numerous attempts have been made to damage my character and reputation. Despite this I stand firm in my conviction that in all my years of lobbying for change in the Irish Red Cross I have at all times been committed to the protection of the integrity of the Irish Red Cross and have only spoken out when wrongs are committed. I shall continue to speak out until such time as the Irish Red Cross is reformed and in particular until those responsible for the organisation’s ills are held accountable and expelled from the organisation for life.

    We must all act together to insure that the Principles of the Red Cross are not only promoted, but are fully understood and adhered to by all within the Irish Red Cross.

    I am not the enemy, nor is Noel Wardick. Juanita Majury was not the enemy, Mary Cullivan was not the enemy, James Walsh was not the enemy, Louis White was not the enemy, Bernadette Buckely was not the enemy. The list of those courageous enough to stand up to the powerful elite and who were chased from the organisation, while not endless, is very long and reflects the extent of the disease that grows deep within the Irish Red Cross. All these people are far more committed, dedicated and loyal to the Irish Red Cross than any member of the antiquated ruling elite.

    As a life-long member I hope that you as a governing member of the Irish Red Cross will act on behalf of the good that Henry Dunant and others dreamed of.

    End this incompetent and debased regime, trust in yourself and stand behind the emblem of the Red Cross with pride. You are the future and you are the person that has been appointed and trusted to act responsibly. Do what you feel is right, show no fear and trust in yourself and I as a member of the Irish Red Cross will stand behind you. But please do not stay silent. Please demand change. Please seek resignations.

    History has shown time and time again that those individuals who are obsessed with power and who serve lengthy and unchallenged periods in office do great damage to countries and organisations. The Irish Red Cross is no exception.

    “Tutti Fratelli”

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  15. Anonymous5:35 PM

    As a Red cross member from the Kildare Area I’ am perturbed at the way the document produced my area has been used in this Blog. I would like to point out that as far as I’ am aware it was presented to the Central Council as a guidance document to help in the making of a comprehensive Procurement Policy and for no other reason. It was not produced for the purpose of beating someone over the head with it or to get at anyone .I would like to also to point out that as far as I am aware the Kildare area working group have not formed any alliance with anyone or with other Red Cross area’s to affect change at central council.
    In offering this document we hope to move forward in a professional and dignified manner and it is hoped that in the near future we will have a comprehensive Governance document that will set the ground rules that will guide the movement into a better future.

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