Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Irish Red Cross in clear breach of aid sector Code of Corporate Governance despite being a signatory

The Irish Red Cross is a full member of Dóchas, Ireland’s umbrella organisation which represents development NGOs such as Concern and Trócaire as well as organisations such as the Irish Red Cross. Following extensive research, analysis and consultation Dóchas, in collaboration with the Corporate Governance Association of Ireland (CGAI), developed a comprehensive NGO Code of Corporate Governance. As a member of Dóchas the Irish Red Cross signed up to the Code.

Dóchas and the aid sector as a whole recognise that the governance of humanitarian and development organisations is a critical component in determining their success and enhancing the public’s trust. Ensuring effective and transparent governance across the sector is a key objective of Dóchas and the Code of Corporate Governance is an important step in this direction. The more difficult step, however, is ensuring implementation of and compliance with the Code. Organisations such as the Irish Red Cross make this even more challenging given its flagrant breach of all accepted good governance practice. It remains to be seen how Dóchas intends to deal with member organisations who consistently fail to adhere to the Code of Corporate Governance. The Code itself is weakened and lessened every time an organisation, such as the Irish Red Cross, decides to wilfully and consciously ignore it.

The foreword to the Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance states:

The size and complexity of the Irish Development NGO sector is changing at an ever increasing pace. The legislative and regulatory environment governing charities will bring greater accountability to the sector as will increased State funding. The donating public will demand, and deserve, increased transparency in the workings of charities to determine how their contributions are being deployed. All stakeholders will expect charities to be properly managed and governed by an effective board to best practice standards. One of our jobs as the representative body of Irish Development NGOs is to encourage members to adopt best practice in corporate governance. Adopting best practice can help members keep pace with the changes and make them more effective where it really counts – increasing the choices available to poor people, and promoting their rights”

It’s a very long time since any board member of the Irish Red Cross genuinely gave consideration to ‘transparency’, ‘best practice’ or ‘poor people and promoting their rights’. The Irish Red Cross has a long history of bullying, intimidation, harassment, appalling governance and misuse of taxpayer and public money. Much of the Irish Red Cross Board’s time and energy is spent preserving their decade’s long power bases and covering up and denying past indiscretions.

The Code of Corporate Governance states:

“Good governance is a vital part of how Development NGOs operate and are held accountable”

It is precisely because good governance ensures organisations can be held accountable that the Irish Red Cross has always ran from good practice. The cabal of leaders who control the Irish Red Cross do not wish to be held accountable. They believe the Irish Red Cross is their own personal fiefdom and they do not accept that they are accountable to Irish Red Cross members, staff, the Irish government and the Irish public. The Irish Red Cross leadership has felt for many years that it can operate with impunity. What they are learning in recent years, however, is that their unacceptable actions will not be tolerated. Instead their actions will be challenged, they will be published and they will be publicised as the issues under scrutiny are clearly matters of public interest and importance.

The Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance quotes the following definition of Good Governance:

“A transparent decision-making process in which the leadership of a nonprofit organisation, in an effective and accountable way, directs resources and exercises power on the basis of shared values”

Any independent fair minded objective analysis would conclusively conclude that the Irish Red Cross does not in any shape or form meet the above definition.

The Code of Corporate Governance goes on to state:

“In the aid and development sector, directors (Board members) take ultimate responsibility for the governance of their organisations. However, governance is not a role for board members alone. More, it is the way board members work with chief executives and staff, volunteers, service users, members and other stakeholders to ensure their organisation is effectively and properly run and meets the needs for which the organisation was set up.

Behind good governance must lie principles formally structured and documented. In this Code, we structure and document the main principles of good governance tailored for the Irish Development NGO sector. It is worth referring here to the “Nolan Principles”, set out by Lord Nolan while chairing the Committee on Standards in Public Life in the UK. Although these were originally established for individuals involved in public and government positions, they are seen as having wider relevance, including for the board members of charitable organisations.

Many organisations have found the Nolan principles a useful basis for understanding the individual role of a director/board member, and they often appear in board member job descriptions or codes of conduct. The principles are: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership”

Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership! Yes, the Nolan Principles and sadly in such short supply, and possibly entirely absent, from the Irish Red Cross’s cabal of leaders who control and dominate the organisation. Until those board members in the Irish Red Cross responsible for misusing donor money by keeping funds in an undeclared bank account for years until they were caught, in violation of Irish Red Cross financial policy, are expelled and those responsible for failing to investigate the matter, are removed from their positions, the Nolan Principles will not apply in the Irish Red Cross.

The Code of Corporate Governance outlines its primary audience as follows:

“This Code is primarily aimed at the board members of Development NGOs who have ultimate corporate governance responsibilities. It will help them to lead their organisations by example, and to achieve excellent governance. It is also aimed at chief executives, who provide the bridge between board members and staff, and have a central role in ensuring good governance is embedded in the organisation. We hope that it will also be more widely useful. For staff, volunteers and beneficiaries, it will help them to understand what they can expect from a well governed Development NGO. It will also be relevant to those with a wider involvement in the governance of the sector, such as: funders; donors; the general public; professional advisers; consultants; trainers; and regulators”

It would be interesting to do a poll amongst Executive Committee members and Central Council members in order to determine how many of them know that they, as board members of the Irish Red Cross, have signed up to the Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance. It would also be an interesting survey to examine how many Irish Red Cross board members are familiar with the role, function and purpose of Dóchas and the role Irish Red Cross plays in the umbrella organisation.

It is note worthy from the above section that Dóchas views the Code as being an important document for staff, volunteers and beneficiaries so that they can ‘understand what they can expect from a well governed organisation’. This sort of language terrifies the cabal on the Executive and Central Council who feel staff are no more than a necessary inconvenience and should be ‘seen’ and not ‘heard’. Engaging with staff on any matter, least of all good governance, is anathema to the fragile, sensitive and insecure egos of the Irish Red Cross board.

One of the principles of the Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance is:

“The Board should be open, responsive and accountable to its users, beneficiaries, partners and others with an interest in its work”

It is only when one reads the entire Code that one realises how utterly and completely at variance the Irish Red Cross is with recognised good governance practice. In fact it is quite shocking because virtually every principle, objective and characteristic of good governance is absent within the Irish Red Cross. Even using the above principle and comparing with the Irish Red Cross the contrast is glaring. The Irish Red Cross Executive Committee is not ‘open’, it is closed, defensive and secretive. The Irish Red Cross Executive Committee is not ‘responsive’, it is unresponsive, arrogant and unapproachable. The Irish Red Cross Executive Committee is most definitely not ‘accountable’, it is entirely unaccountable. Its long history of staff harassment and dismissals, secret bank accounts, violations of financial policy, breaches of accounting practice, secret and undeclared property portfolios, misuse of donor money and misallocation of overseas funds for domestic purposes all prove this beyond doubt.

It is notable that in a document of 62 pages nowhere is it advised or recommended in the Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance that a Vice Chairman should run, control and dominate any organisation for twenty years. Neither is it proposed that such a person should seek re-election for a 21st year or that the Vice Chairman should have a backup plan to stay on the Executive Committee by creating a position called National Director of Units which will have automatic entitlement to sit on the governing body. In fact the position of Vice Chairman is not referred to at all in the Code. It is not considered to be of particular significance or importance apart from deputising in the absence of the Chairman. The respective roles of Chairman and CEO (Secretary General in the case of Irish Red Cross) are seen as the two key leadership positions in setting the tone and determining the outcome of good governance agendas. And so it must be in the Irish Red Cross.

To conclude this article it is timely to ask members of the Executive Committee and the Central Council to consider the following statement, taken directly from the Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance, of which the Irish Red Cross is a signatory:

“All board members are equally responsible in law for the Board’s actions and decisions, and have equal status as board members”

The full Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance is available by clicking:

http://www.dochas.ie/shared/files/2/code_of_corporate_governance.pdf


Accountability is both about being held responsible by others and taking responsibility for oneself. An
accountable organisation invites scrutiny by - and responds to the demands and expectations of - all those affected by its work
-Dóchas Code of Corporate Governance

21 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Message for Darren Ryan, Chairman of the Irish Red Cross Youth Working Group:

    Darren you do some great work for the youth of the Irish Red Cross and your dedication to young members is highly commendable. However you are a member of the Tipperary branch and Area and you have done nothing to have Tony Lawlor removed. Why is this? Why your silence? Is this not complicity? The example Lawlor has given to the youth of the Society is shameful. You have a responsibility to challenge him and ensure he is removed from positions of influence. You are a Labour Councillor in Tipperary as well and your party has committed to reforming and correcting the wrongs of the IRC. They stated so in their election manifesto. Labour is now part of government and the Programme for Government states on page 58 that a full legal review of the Irish Red Cross, its structures and governance will be carried out by the Government. It would help your party alot if you put your head above the parapet and done the decent thing and challenged Lawlor and demanded his resignation.

    Your work for the IRC youth is a credit to you but your silence on Lawlor is not. Do the decent thing and have Lawlor removed from the Tipperary Area and Branch and then you will truly be an example to the Irish Red Cross Youth. Labour will thank you as well! Dont be afraid of Lawlor, there is no reason to fear people like him.

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  2. Anonymous3:37 PM

    The difficulty in your comment blogger with the statement that all board members are "equally responsible". Surely this is stretching the imagination too far. To put the word responsible and the Executive Committee in the same sentence would certainly be stretching the truth well into the realms of fantasy.

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  3. Anonymous9:03 AM

    So Michael Lowry is disgraced following the publication of an investigation report. Secret dealings, denials, claims to the media that he did nothing wrong, attempts to obstruct and delay the investigation, abuse of power and position, undeclared bank accounts but still elected every time. A refusal to do the decent thing and resign. And from Tipperary. Sounds very very familiar.....

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  4. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Well that comment about D Ryan above is one for the books as they say!!! So if the government really want to reform the Irish Red Cross they have their man on the inside to do it for them!!! That is if he finally speaks out against all the very bad things that have happened. Yes Lawlor will come after him and try to have him removed from the Chair of the Youth Group and sidelined but as the person above says dont fear people like Lawlor, fight them, fight them head on. That is what they fear the most. They work on the basis that they will win through fear. Show no fear and they dont know what to do. Look how petrified they are of Noel Wardick. He shows no fear and has won hands down. His reputation goes from strength to strength while those of Lawlor, Noonan, Horwell and their pawns on Executive are in tatters. Come on Darren, time to make a name for yourself. Make your move and show some guts. Like Wardick you will be rewarded for it by winning the respect of all right minded people.

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  5. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Anonymous would want to get his or her facts right before coming on the blog and talking about people. Its one thing making a point its another thing making a point which is not correct. Maybe if people knew who they were writing about it would help!!

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  6. Anonymous7:48 AM

    So the poster above would like to say what?

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  7. Anonymous7:55 AM

    The Irish Red Cross have made the following statement in relation to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society". This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas.

    So as not to comply with the above and to insure that the members and others may not freely express their opinions. All discussions have been removed from their facebook page. So as to insure that you do not make comment they have made a restriction on who might make a comment. So Blogger maybe it's time to set up a special facebook page and twitter and Linkedin page just for those on social media can turley have freedom over the Executive Committee.

    What a bunch of leaders we have ! Despicable

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  8. Anonymous7:20 AM

    You cant beat the Irish Red Cross! They are back to their censorship ways once again. Closing off the Comment facility on their Facebook page and removing the Discussion section altogether. And deleting all previous comments because they tell the truth. Why did they do this? Because once again people were taking the opportunity to write truthfully about the Irish Red Cross and point out the painful facts of how the place is mis governed and how funds are misused. So Irish Red Cross does the only thing it knows, it tries to shut down dissent and honesty and prevent freedom of speech.

    The leaders of the Irish Red Cross must have trained with the KGB or some other similar crowd. Their philosophy is 'its our opinion and nobody is allowed have a different one'.

    Remember these are the people who tried and failed to sue Google in America to have this blog shut down until the International Red Cross in Geneva told them to stop bringing the whole Movement into disrepute and cancel the law suit. Irish red Cross quietly dropped it. These are the people who refused to send correspondence sent to Merrion Square out to Central Council members even though letters were marked 'private and confidential'. They were afraid of what information and truth the letters might contain. And these are the people who fired Noel Wardick for telling the truth. Some years back they fired the Finance Controller, Louis White, for telling the truth and after he challenged Lawlor head on about the Society's finances and the way the accounts were being manipulated, just as Wardick did. Gerry Moyne was chased out after he told the truth and asked difficult questions about the misuse of overseas funds and demanded an investigation. Well thanks to the efforts of a number of people the truth is out there and everyone knows in detail about the likes of Lawlor, Noonan, Murphy, Horwell and their cronies on the Executive and one or two on Central Council.

    Show some courage Irish Red Cross and re-open your Facebook page. Its 2011 and closing your FB site to comments and discussion smells of guilt and an organisation with lots to hide. Very bad publicity but as always self inflicted.

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  9. Anonymous6:34 AM

    It really is astounding that the Irish Red Cross has shut down the discussion forum on its Facebook page.
    One can only wonder at the reasoning behind this action. In my mind it is clearly the action of an organisation (or rather the few with a stranglehold on it)in a panic. The discussion and comment facility on Facebook is currently the biggest global means of freespeech and information dissemination. It has facititated revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East!! I only hope that the symbolism and irony of the Irish Red Cross shutting down its own discussion forum is not lost on those who took this action.
    At the least it is highly insulting and disrespectful to the Volunteers and Members of the Irish Red Cross, many of whom are voicing serious concern about how the organisation is being run, and whom once again have had another means of discussion and freespeech slammed closed.

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  10. Anonymous3:20 AM

    I was thinking about the comments above asking Darren Ryan, Chair of the Youth Working Group and Labour Party Councillor in Tipperary, to stand up and be counted on Tony Lawlor and to call on Lawlor to resign for keeping an undeclared bank account until he was caught. I initially thought it was unfair to pick out Ryan from all the Executive Committee and Central Council members who are complicit through their silence and inaction. The I thought that since Darren Ryan is a publicly elected representative then his actions should be scrutinised and he should be asked to explain his silence. When one is a public representative then ones actions should and must be open to question. Ryan is part of the Tipperary Irish Red Cross Area. There is no record of him ever questioning Tony Lawlor and the other branch officers involved in the undeclared bank account and the two unauthorised withdrawals from it. Ryan has not requested Lawlor's resignation for his behaviour with this bank account or for the fact that it is bad practice to serve 20 years on a board. Ryan has been silent and as a Labour Party Councillor he should be asked why. Silence is not acceptable. Fear from a public representative is not acceptable. The Labour Party should be contacted and asked why one of their Councillors is doing nothing about the serious misuse of money donated by the Irish public. So Sorry Darren, if you want to be a public representative then I suggest you represent the interest of the general public and not those who think they own the Irish Red Cross. If you dont represent the public properly then expect to be challenged and criticised. I suggest the Labour party TDs in Tipperary be contacted and complaints made to them. If that doesnt work contact Gilmore directly.

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  11. Anonymous3:38 AM

    So the following corrupt and dictatorial regimes have tired to sue Google and prevent freedom of speech by shutting down websites and blogs they dont like: China, Sudan, North Korea.

    Irish Red Cross joins the above in that it also tried and failed to sue Google to prevent freedom of speech. This blog's very existence is in itself a huge and important victory against the Irish Red Cross.

    Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and Gaddafi's murderous regime in Libya all have one thing in common with the Irish Red Cross, what is it?

    Answer: all of the above despise and fear the truth and all of the above have tried to shut down social media such as Facebook by preventing discussion and comments. Its is sickening beyond description that the Irish Red Cross has stooped to such disgusting standards. A humanitarian organisation actively fighting against free speech and the truth. How have we allowed this happen?

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  12. Anonymous3:43 AM

    What's more sickening is that the Irish Red Cross has the neck to ask people to donate to 'its Libya response' while at the same time following the actions of Gaddaffi's government in trying to control discussion on its Facebook page. Propaganda Irish Red Cross style...say nice things and we will post them, tell the truth and you will be barred from commenting. What an insult to everything the emblem of the Red Cross stands for.

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  13. Anonymous11:37 AM

    So the Red Cross have deleted the facebook discussions and limited the access and ability to post comments. That in their opinion is the solution to poor management and a failure to enact good governance. An interesting approach. This is just another sad and failed attempt at trying to hide and cover up all the terrible things that have happened and continue to happen in the Irish Red Cross

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  14. Anonymous11:38 AM

    The astounding part of the action of the management within the Irish Red Cross to close the facebook page is that is shows once again how much in contempt the Executive holds the opinions of members and the public, the very people they want to give them money. So the real Irish Red Cross message is: give us your money but keep your opinions to yourself as we couldnt be bothered listening to them.

    Have the members not at this point realised the Executive and Central Council could not care what your opinions are especially if they dont match those of the inner sanctum. This is the kingdom of Lawlor we are talking about and after all he will stand before anyone who shall dare to get in his way and deny everything no matter what. The most important thing is to continue the fight against him and his cohorts who are in thrall of him. The shine has gone off Lawlor now and more and more people are prepared to speak out against his 20 year rule. He has been finally exposed as has his little inner circle. They may be still running the place but as someone else said their credibility is in tatters and when you lose that you have lost the war.

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  15. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Dear Management of the Irish Red Cross,

    Please fogive me if I am dearly mistaken, but you are involved in the same organisation that Henry Dunant began and received a Nobel Peace prize.
    Having read the contents of this Blog one could easily profile this organisation as a model of how not to run any organisation.

    Keep up the great work my students are enjoying the learning experience. This indeed is an typical example of why Ireland has failed its people.

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  16. Anonymous7:48 AM

    To Whom It May Concern,

    The purpose of this Blog is to provide a forum where the truth behind the Irish Red Cross can be discussed and debated in a manner free from threat, intimidation or fear. The Blog has been very successful in shedding light on the reality of the Irish Red Cross. Any attempt to censor, control or shut down this blog will be robustly, strongly and vigorously countered. The right to the truth on matters of public interest and our inalienable right to free speech in telling that truth must never ever be compromised. All attempts to do so must be resisted. And they will be resisted.

    Noel Wardick

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  17. Anonymous4:10 AM

    Slightly cryptic message Noel.

    Makes me think someone is threatenting you and/or the blog. If thats the case it would be classic Irish Red Cross. Same tired old response they have used for years. Tiresomly predictable.

    Have the Irish Red Cross not accepted that the blog is one of the most important developments within the Society in two decades? Its the equivalent of giving the school yard bully a big punch on the nose. Like the school yard bully certain individuals in the Irish Red cross are still reeling from the punch but continue to lash out in order to preserve their crumbling power. However once a bully gets punched by someone he is never the same again. As I said this blog is the most important thing that has happened to the Irish Red Cross in manys a long day so long may it continue.

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  18. Anonymous4:37 AM

    I hope someone is going to run against Tony Lawlor for the Vice Chairman post at the May Central Council meeting. Is Lawlor going forward again? For the 21st year in a row??!! Sure he is only getting warmed up! Its always hard to convince anyone to run against him but until someone does no reform will ever happen. More worryingly is the Chairman in 2012. O' Callaghan's term expires in 12 months and the first non government Chairman could be appointed internally and guess who craves that spot....???

    I wonder has Tom Horwell posted any more confidential information on his facebook site like when he announced the appointment of the new Secretary General before it was officially announced?!!

    Is Darren Ryan, the Labour Councilor, going for the Youth Chairman again?

    Anyway back to the May Central Council meeting. Im a member and I have not heard a single word from our Central Council rep about the proposed draft new constitution. I havent even got a copy of it. Why hasnt the head office posted a copy of this document to all members? The inner sanctum of lawlor and noonan and one or two others want this passed ASAP with minimum of fuss. Its the equivalent of the Irish Government trying to change the Irish Constitution without a referendum. Irish people would never tolerate this and so Irish Red Cross members shouldnt tolerate their exclusion from the non existent consultation process.

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  19. Anonymous1:30 PM

    The real question is that now the ICRC have a presence in Ireland will they have the strength to take on and rectify the failures of the Irish Red Cross to comply with the repsonsibilities of National Societies. Will the ICRC have the strength to ask the IFRC to do their job and sanction the Irish Red Cross. The rules are there what is the problem why this cat and mouse game ! Corruption is corruption and making a silk purse out of a sows ear, comes to mind !
    Keep up the good work Wardick it appears that you are getting under their skin and thye have hides like rhinos.

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  20. Anonymous6:41 AM

    Taken from the Irish Red Cross Youth facebook site, the discussion section and posted by someone going by the name Henry Dunant:

    Dear Irish Red Cross Youth,

    The Red Cross Movement has seen the growth of an unparalleled organisation across the world. The Red Cross has affected the lives of millions of people across the globe in a way which in itself defines humanity. In Ireland the Red Cross Movement is proudly represented by the Irish Red Cross. It is clearly evident that the Youth of the Irish Red Cross are immensely proud to be a part of the Red Cross Movement and are fully engaged in promoting the fundamental principles of the Red Cross Movement. Hosting the Spring Seminar of the EURCYN is a wonderful achievement for all involved.

    The purpose of this post is to request all Members of the Irish Red Cross to satisfy themselves that the Irish Red Cross is run in a manner which is 100% in the best interests of the Irish Red Cross and within the spirit of the Red Cross Movement. The Irish Red Cross is governed by the Central Council who in turn delegate certain duties to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee report to the Central Council. The Central Council is made up of Red Cross Members who have been nominated by their respective Areas. The Irish Government also elects members to the Central Council. The Central Council serves a three year term. As Red Cross Members it is vitally important for each individual to participate and actively ensure that they are represented on Central Council by a person who embodies the principles of the Red Cross.

    The Irish Red Cross has serious shortcomings in the way it is governed. A key reason for this is that the Central Council has for decades been populated by people who have failed in their duties. These shortcomings have been widely publicised in both Irish Red Cross reports and external media.

    Much attention has been given to a blog written by the former Head of the International Department of the Irish Red Cross. The blog cost the author his job with the Irish Red Cross. It appears the only option left for the author to raise his serious concerns with internal issues in the Irish Red Cross was via a blog (after no action was taken when he raised the issues internally). The blog is at http://governancereformatirishredcross.blogspot.com
    I would ask all members to give some time to read this blog. It is not for me to state the accuracy of the claims and issues raised in the blog. Each Member of the Irish Red Cross should satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of the issues in the blog. How to do this? (i) Ask your Area Representative to investigate these claims (ii) Participate in the nomination process of your Area -your representative is your voice on the Central Council.

    This weekend Ireland's political landscape witnessed a transformation. The old power base has been cast aside. North Africa has seen the power of the people break the grip of repressive regimes. Powerful regimes can and do fall. The Youth of the Irish Red Cross represent the hope and future of the Irish Red Cross. I ask you to make your voice heard.

    A concerned believer of the Red Cross Movement

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  21. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Not only should someone run against the current Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor, at the May Central Council meeting, so that at least members are presented with an option to replace him after his 20 years in situ it is very important somone runs against Ted Noonan for the Treasurer position. Irish Red Cross needs a Treasurer who is prepared to investigate matters when there are clear violations of finance policy and misuse of the public's money rather than ignoring them. We need a Treasurer who will investigate the secret and undeclared Irish Red Cross property portfolio and hold those responsible accountable. There are a good few other Executive Committee members who need to move on with their lives and get off Executive. Give the next generation a chance. Its what real leaders do.

    Imagine if no one ran against Fianna Fail and we were left with no option but to re elect them every time. I know, it sounds ridiculous but thats exactly what has happened in the Irish Red Cross and that is why the place is in such a dysfunctional state. If people refuse to go after crazy lengths of time in office then they need to be forced out, plain and simple. Will somone please show some courage and run for election against these people. Donal Forde genuinely wants to change the place and turn it around once and for all. It will not be possible for him to do so with the current bunch of leaders who will make life difficult for him at every turn. Give Forde a fighting chance as otherwise he will either walk or be pushed by the same inner sanctum who pushed the previous 7 secretary generals.

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