Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Deeply flawed Irish Red Cross Constitution adopted while Vice Chairman is appointed for 21st year in a row

The 28th May 2011 was another dark day in the history of the Irish Red Cross. A flawed Constitution, designed by a select few with vested interests in remaining in power, was approved by members of the Central Council. The document was endorsed following a process virtually devoid of organisational consultation, debate or dialogue. All in all it was an appalling but near perfect example of bad organisational democracy.

To make matters worse a number of individuals with excessive service on the Board were re-appointed to their positions, once again making a mockery of Irish Red Cross’s public position that it is committed to good governance and board reform. The most brazen and shameless of these was the re-appointment of the Vice Chairman for the 21st year in a row. The continuing external damage to the Irish Red Cross’s reputation and image can only be guessed at.

All is not lost however regarding the Constitution. The document has no status until such time as the Joint IFRC/ICRC Commission on National Society Statutes in Geneva approves it. Given that the Constitution as it currently stands permits Central Council members, Area Committee members, Branch members and Nomination Committee members serve for life, in flagrant breach of internationally accepted good governance practice, it can only be hoped that the IFRC/ICRC will instruct the Irish Red Cross to make fundamental amendments and bring a corrected Constitution back before Central Council in December 2011. In addition to IFRC/ICRC approval the Constitution must also be accepted by Government and be compliant with pending Government changes to the 1938 Red Cross Act. A Government committed to transparency, good governance and ethics could not possibly stand over and/or legislate for the Constitution just approved.

Was there anything positive from the Central Council meeting readers might ask? Yes, believe it or not there was!

In what can only be described as a completely crushing and humiliating defeat for the ruling elite an important amendment was made to the Constitution before it was voted on, an amendment advocated by this Blog many times. The Article in the Constitution which stated that Executive Committee members could serve for a maximum of two three year terms and then be obliged to stand down for only one year before serving again was amended so that now Executive Committee members must step down for three years.

This amendment must be recognised and acknowledged as real progress in dismantling, albeit very slowly, the decades long power bases of certain individuals. The Blog is in no doubt that certain persons on the Executive Committee will be incandescent with rage over this last minute change.

There is, however, a real threat to the above positive development. Unless the Irish Government enshrines the amendment into legislation then the Central Council can change or revoke it at any time so long as a two-thirds majority approve it. African dictators are famous for bringing in ‘modern and progressive’ constitutions with clauses that include a maximum two terms in office. This is done initially to satisfy their western donors only to be amended in time so they can serve multiple and continuous terms in office. In the absence of the Irish Red Cross constitution amendment entering legislation a similar attempt can be expected over time by the Irish Red Cross. The subservient and acquiescent Central Council will not be any obstacle to reversing the amendment.

The issue of retrospective service was apparently raised during the meeting and surprise was expressed why lengthy cumulative service on the board to date is not to be taken into account when determining eligibility for future board service. The usual tried and tested Irish Red Cross response was trotted out by those same individuals with everything to lose should retrospective service be considered, namely ‘there may be legal barriers to taking retrospective service into consideration’. This is absolute nonsense and a standard operating procedure used by those under threat in the Irish Red Cross where they feign legal knowledge and try to scare off questioning and challenges.

There is absolutely no legal barrier whatsoever preventing the Central Council bringing in a rule that states any Executive Committee member who has served, say for 6 years, must immediately step down at the end of their current term and remain off Executive Committee for a minimum of 3 years. Central Council members should not allow themselves be bullied and intimidated into accepting positions that have no legal base in fact. Perhaps IFRC/ICRC and/or the Government will demand retrospective service be taken into consideration before giving their green light.

In the absence of a specific rule on retrospection, however, there is nothing preventing Executive Committee members from doing the right and honourable thing and stepping down after serving excessive periods in office. Clearly, based on the meeting of the 28th May, Right and Honour are distinctly lacking.

Everyone will now await the verdict from Geneva and the Irish Government. Both have been informed that the process of designing the approved constitution would fail any honest assessment of organisational consultation. Of particular note for readers has been the concerted attempt to prevent certain Irish Red Cross members from receiving a copy of the Draft Constitution. At least one life-long member whom the Blog is aware of wrote on numerous occasions to his Area, his Branch and to the Secretary General requesting a copy. All were ignored and to-date this individual has not had his request acceded to. Wilfully keeping the proposed constitution from even one member of the Society in and of itself makes the process of approving it on 28th May null and void in the view of the Blog.

Based on the Constitution as it currently stands the Society, in six/seven year’s time will finally see the removal of certain individuals for at least three years. Never again will anyone ever be permitted to serve on the Executive Committee for 21 years in a row. If it will not be allowed in the future it should not be allowed now. The Vice Chairman, Treasurer and any member with six years service or more should step down with immediate effect. The very precarious funding environment the Irish Red Cross finds itself in does not allow the luxury of waiting seven years for them to be forced to go.

The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness-Niels Bohr (Nobel Prize, 1922)

On a separate matter:

On 26th May 2011 Transparency International Ireland launched its new free confidential helpline called SpeakUp for persons wishing to seek advice on reporting corruption, fraud, abuse of power, negligence, misuse of resources and questionable procurement practices. The helpline will be staffed by experienced and trained professionals who will give free confidential advice and support to individuals who are facing ethical dilemmas or who witnessed something and are not sure how to proceed.

The Transparency International Ireland SpeakUp free and confidential helpline can be called at 1800 844 866 or by logging on at a specially protected website http://www.speakup.ie/

Anyone who has concerns over fraud, corruption, abuse of power etc in the workplace or elsewhere should not hesitate to call Transparency International whose highly dedicated and professional staff are immediately on hand to assist.


  1. Anonymous7:26 AM

    I'm going to put €50 on in Paddy Power if they will take it, that Lawlor and Co will look to and get the rules changed so that their tenure will last for their lifetimes. These guys are incredible and certainly not untouchable if they were they wouldn't have been running around like blue bottles last Friday after receiving Wardicks appraisal of the governance reform.

    They can rule if they want, but the kingdom is shrinking rapidly. Their absence on the Frontline was noted last night. Perhaps they don't want to go public just yet.

    What a joke a Humanitarian organisation that is ashamed to let anyone be a spokesperson in case they are asked, “What you are doing with the money”?

    So look forward Mr Forde to the questions, they will be asked sooner or later, and you are the one that is going to be defending the critters.

  2. Anonymous3:13 PM

    Is it not an indictment of the Irish Red Cross that it no longer is a credible part of the Federation of Red Cross Societies? It can no longer express any concern on a matter of foreign appeals given its history of financial irregularities in this regard. The Society proved at last Saturdays Central Council meeting that it there is a huge risk of it closing down where it to discuss the Governance proposals with the membership as this might disclose the real truth that there are actually a fraction of the membership they purport to exist.
    The Irish Red Cross is currently in financial ruin. When will the Irish Government ask how it might explain the spending of 145k in legal fees last year, and of course in excess of this on the last temporary Secretary General. This is almost 40% of the assistance given to the Society or did they use the Haiti money for this purpose. Of course this does not include the money paid to some other consultants.

  3. Anonymous2:06 AM

    "Bravo", to the only Central Council representative who had the wisdom to recognise that the others surrounding him did not have the strength nor the integrity to question themselves on their failure at disseminating the Governance proposals to the memebrship of the Irish Red Cross. Once again the old boy newtwork is hard at work. Why bother to go to these meetings why not just send in the expenses and ask Tony Lawlor and Sheila Callan, Murphy and Horwell to give your opinon, they are doing it now with you present.

  4. Anonymous5:27 AM

    So the Irish Red Cross and FIFA are very similar organisations.

    Both are run by one man who gets elected unopposed for crazy periods of time and who refuses to step down despite calls for him to do so.

    Both organisations will never fundamentally change until the person in power for ever is removed.

    Both are scaring their corporate sponsors and donors.

    Both are considered a laughing stock by lots of people and many would never trust either organisation as much as one inch.

    Transparency International has called for an independent investigation into both the Irish Red Cross and FIFA!!

    It must be a great comfort for the Irish Red Cross leaders to know they are a mirror image of one of the world's best known organisations!!!

  5. Anonymous5:51 AM

    I hear a new Honorary Secretary was elected to the Irish Red Cross board. I thought they had done away with that post as I have no idea who was the honorary secretary the past years. I never heard a squeek out of whoever it was. The person definitely did not challenge Tony Lawlor and ask for his resignation after the Tipperary tsunami back disgrace. If they did we would have heard all about the person as they would have been somehow removed from the board. Maybe the person chose silence out of fear, blind loyalty, disinterest?? Who knows.

    The new honorary secretary is someone I never heard of called annie murphy. The last hon. secretary that made a real positive contribution to Irish Red Cross was Jennifer Bulbulia. Now there was a class act. Intelligent, honest and courageous. She stood up to lawlor and des kavanagh and was fearless in her desire to see them removed. They couldnt handle her. She always had the better of them. Eventually she resigned in disgust and documented her concerns to the Minister for Defence who of course did nothing. If he had listened to Ms. Bulbulia and forced changed we wouldnt be in the mess we are now. Jenny Bulbulia set the bar very high for the honorary secretary. It will be interesting to see if annie murphy has the courage and conviction to try to reach the same level. Will she be brave enough like Bulbulia to take on lawlor and those around him or will she tow the line? I'm betting on the latter but we'll know soon enough.

  6. Anonymous4:08 AM

    The following quote from the blog article above is important:

    "In what can only be described as a completely crushing and humiliating defeat for the ruling elite an important amendment was made to the Constitution before it was voted on, an amendment advocated by this Blog many times. The Article in the Constitution which stated that Executive Committee members could serve for a maximum of two three year terms and then be obliged to stand down for only one year before serving again was amended so that now Executive Committee members must step down for three years"

    This is another big victory for Noel Wardick and a very bad defeat for lawlor, noonan, horwell, murphy and co. Noel keeps forcing the Irish Red Cross to reform and to do things it would never do but for his campaign to shine a light on the goings ons within the Society. He forced them to investigate lawlor and the tipperary bank account disgrace when for 2 years they said there was nothing to investigate, he forced them to appoint a new secretary general, he forced the government to appoint a new chairman when it would have been happy enough to leave lawlor as acting chairman indefinitely.

    I have heard that the change in the constitution which will force board members off the board for 3 years was feriously resisted so fair play Noel you have inflicted another big defeat on the ruling elite. Your detailed analysis on the draft constitution was excellent and it was your document which forced the Irish Red Cross to amend their constitution.

    I agree with the blogger when he says the Irish Red Cross does not have 7 years to wait for lawlor, noonan, horwell etc to be forced out but at least we know that they will GO. How shameful it is that they have to be forced out like this but whatever it takes new blood is required. The likes of Darren Ryan etc are not going to demand it.

    I would bet a million Euro that during the 3 years when the ruling elite are gone the Irish Red Cross will be transformed and donors and corporate sponsors will begin to return. While the ruling elite are present donors and corporate sponsors will more than likely remain very nervous.

    But as you say blogger we dont have 7 years to wait till these guys are removed and we can expect the ruling elite to try to amend the new constitution so that they will not have to step down. So big risks and threats remain.

    I wonder how the boys and gals will cope with being booted off Executive and being left out in the cold for 3 years. Thats around 30 Executive Committee meetings they will miss!!! 30 Executive Committee meetings to smash the power bases and strucutres of the old regime. If they ever come back things will have changed so much they will never be powerful again and even if they try to restart their shenannigans they will again be booted off Executive within 6 years (2*3 year terms) for another 3 years so they will never be able to re-establish their power bases like they have now.

    Fair play to you Wardick, you just keep scoring victories over these guys! Your reputation goes from strength to strength while those that shafted you goes from bad to worse.

  7. Anonymous4:30 AM

    I wonder has any Irish Red Cross staff member or volunteer called the Transparency International Ireland free and confidential phone number for whistleblowers that Blogger informs us about in above article?

    They should call immediately with information on the Society's €7 million property portfolio that still remains unaccounted for. They should call about the €600,000 diverted from last years Haiti earthquake appeal and used to hide losses on the domestic side. And what about the legal fees paid by Irish Red Cross in 2010 trying and failing to sue Google? Tens of thousands of Euros of donor money wasted. If those with information stay silent then there comes a point in time when you are complicit. And when the independent investigation into the Irish Red Cross inevitably happens you will have great difficulty justifying your silence and inaction.

  8. Anonymous4:49 AM

    The new honorary secretary, annie murphy, is a government nominee appointed by the previous Government, the Fianna Fail/Green coalition. The current batch of government nominess, all appointed by the ousted and disgraced FF/Green government, end their three year term in April 2012 so annie murphy will only have the privalege of serving less than a year as honorary secretary. So if she decideds to take on lawlor and noonan and horwell she had better get on the case straight away!

    It is very unlikley that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition would re-appoint the same people appointed by their arch rivals in Fianna Fail and the Greens.

    Hopefully the new government will appoint people with backbone, conviction and courage, people of the calibre who wouldnt hesitate in demanding resignations of 'certain' board members.

  9. Anonymous3:57 AM

    A comment posted above says that the legal bills incurred by Irish Red Cross in 2010 were €145,000. Is this correct? If so it is a disgrace.

    Who sanctioned this expenditure? Whoever gave permission to waste €145,000 of donor money on legal bills of this magnitude should be forced to resign immediately. Who signed off on this expenditure? Was it the secretary general, was it the finance manager? They need to be investigated for their role in this. If so who gave them the authority to do so? Was it the treasurer? If so he should be forced to resign immediately. This is a scandalous misuse of Irish Red Cross funds. The Executive Committee and the senior managers responsible for this disgusting waste of charitable money should be forced to account for themselves and failing satisfactory explanations made resign.

    It is sickening to think individuals pursuing their personnel vendettas against Noel Wardick, who spoke the truth and nothing but the truth, get away with wasting €145,000 in one year on paying solicitors and barristers. These people are using Irish Red Cross money to pursue their own personal agendas, to protect their own highly questionable reputations and silence dissent and cover up wrong doing.

    How much in legal bills will the Irish Red Cross incur in 2011 in defending the case which Noel Wardick is taking against them. The preparation for this case will cost them tens of thousands of Euros as I presume Wardick will compel most of the Executive and certain senior managers to appear at the hearing so that his barrister can cross examine them. Imagine the time and effort the likes of lawlor, murphy, horwell etc will need to spend with their barristers getting their story straight in advance of the hearing. All costs charged to Irish Red Cross please.

    Ask one question: how many lives could be saved in Africa with €145,000?? Instead Irish Red Cross give the money it to rich barristers and wealthy law firms. Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, must be turning in his grave with disgust.

    Shame on you Irish Red Cross, shame on you and all responsible.

  10. Anonymous6:00 AM

    Does anyone know who the Chirman of the Irish Red Cross is. Certainly he appears to be keeping a very low profile. As a member I have no idea who the current Chirman is or the Honorary Secretary. When Maureen O Sullivan was Secretary she at least let everyone know who she was. This current group of saviours are in the bunker mentality. Keeping their heads low so that no one knows who they are, that way no one can blame them for the current financial mess the Irish Red Cross is in. The sooner the Government pulls the pin on this lot the better for the Red Cross that way the true volunteers will win out. Keep up the good work Mr Wardick this is the only way anyone can find out what is really going on.

  11. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Is there any truth that the Red Cross paid a solicitor 145k last year? If so is it any wonder I don't donate to them anymore.

  12. Anonymous8:08 AM

    What excuse have the auditors put on last years accounts for their failure to get the information required to sign off on a proper set of accounts. Has anyone reported this matter to the Auditor General or Director of Corporate enforcement surely the revenue from these properties if any must be accounted for.
    Another point is where did the 800k go that was received for the sale of 50 Merrion Road. This property was sold on the grounds that the money was being used to provide a more suitable refugee home. Or is this money like the Tsunami money resting in an account somewhere?

  13. Anonymous7:15 AM

    If the Irish Red Cross can supply money for buying guns in the North of Ireland and take money out of Appeals to pay for Consultants and Lawyers do you think for one minute they will worry about asking Lawlor and his mates to resign. I think not ! Ok. Sadly the damage and disgrace continues.

  14. Anonymous3:48 AM

    I fully agree with the post above huge damage and huge disgace continues.

    I blame the branch members and area members for not getting rid of them when they had the chance at the election stage this year. Are ye afraid to stand up and be accounted for. You did nothing to help the situations so you are just as much to blame as the offenders themselves. Fair play to the gang in Galway they cleaned up their end of things and voted out the old and put someone new in the ring.

    There is not much point in sitting on these committees if you cannot stand up and do the job you were put on there to do. Branches and Areas need to take a good hard luck at themselves and see how they continue to hide their heads in the sand in stead of cleaning out the dead wood and electing new members to the Central Council.

    Although these guys think their Gods they are far from it get your heads out of the sand and do your job at ground level and we may have a chance at saving this organisation

  15. Anonymous6:33 AM

    I see Noel Wardick has an interesting article in the latest edition (June-August 2011) of the Village magazine. The article can be found on P25. There is also a small reference to his article in the Village Editorial on P4. Its great to see the truth about the Irish Red Cross back in the national media again.

  16. Anonymous11:31 AM

    Here here to the comment about branch and area committees long overdue our colleagues stood up to these clowns. What the hell are ye afraid of. Your hiding your heads nearly as well as certain braches can hide bank accounts.

    Although it is rare that a dog will bite the hand that feeds it!! Its amazing how all the little boys and girls who support the inner sanctum are rewarded.

  17. Anonymous12:46 PM

    The problems within the Red Cross are as apparent at Branch level as at National. There are individuals who make up rules to suit themselves and will gladly quote them to you in the knowledge that it’s all bullshit. What can be done to deal with this is a proper clean out at local level. Get rid of all these uniformed narcissists who are more interested in their own self importance than anything to do with the Humanitarian interests that the Red Cross is supposed to stand for. A recent poll on diversity was taken I would be interested to know how many marginalised groups are represented in the Red Cross. You can bet you life there are many Branches who would rather close than have particular minority groups involved. Are there many people with intellectual difficulties involved in branches? Not a chance ! Well, this actually may not be correct when one considers some of the actions taken by Red Cross volunteers over the last few decades.

  18. Anonymous11:50 PM

    Looking at some old photographs last evening, taken back over twenty years. I recognised many of the faces. Today I look at many of the same faces who appear on various places as members of the Red Cross and although older the same look out at me.

    This would not be a problem if it were not for the fact that these individuals have remained in the same positions of authority over almost all of these years. We often speak of political dynasties what would this be called?

    Change the face of the REd Cross Mr Wardick it needs new images these ones are begining to waer out.