Saturday, October 15, 2011

Irish Red Cross to be called before parliamentary committee to face questions on use of overseas donations

NOTE: The full transcript to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee Hearing into the malpractice and maladministration at the Irish Red Cross is now available on the following link:

On 13th October 2011 further light was shed on the practices and behaviour occurring within the Irish Red Cross. The Dail’s (Ireland’s Parliament) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) questioned intensely and robustly the Head of the Department of Defence, Michael Howard, on a range of extremely serious matters related to the Society, from mis-governance, financial irregularities and misuse of public money. Despite the Irish Government (via the Department of Defence) appointing the Irish Red Cross Chairman, one third of its 42 member Central Council and granting the Society €1m annually Mr. Howard did not appear to have the answers and seemed to imply his Department had no say or role to play in its running. The PAC members, all elected members of parliament, seemed both surprised and dissatisfied with his responses.

For much of the questioning Mr. Howard appeared distinctly uncomfortable and at times had trouble answering questions with certainty and conviction. All in all the Committee hearing left many questions unanswered and doubts further raised. Thankfully the Chair of the Committee, Mr. John Mc Guinness, a highly respected member of parliament, appeared to recognise this and agreed the Public Accounts Committee would continue to examine the matter. Mr. Mc Guinness decided the Irish Red Cross will be invited before the Committee to respond to the serious allegations made against it.

All in all October 13th 2011 was a bad day for the Department of Defence and their officials as they struggled to assuage deep rooted concerns about the Irish Red Cross. Whatever though about the Department of Defence it was another catastrophic day for the Irish Red Cross who, along with their supporters in the Department of Defence, and like other disgraced organisations in the country such as the Catholic Church, continue to defend the indefensible.

Until the membership of the Irish Red Cross finally decide to hold to account those responsible for the malaise the organisation they so dearly love and dedicate so much of their free time to will continue to be dragged through the mud. As always when leaders fail it is those they serve who suffer most but there comes a tipping point when leaders must be deposed or the reputational damage to all becomes irreparable.

Following the Public Accounts Committee hearing which are held in public and monitored closely by the media, the ‘establishment’ and the public, there was wide media coverage (TV, print and internet) and commentary. Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, covered the proceedings on television on Thursday evening on its program Oireachtas Report. The hearing was also covered on RTE’s web service, the Irish Times breaking news web service and in two print national newspapers on Friday 14th October (The Irish Times and the Examiner).

The links to some of the media coverage is below and the full Irish Times article is transcribed.

Lest any readers not believe that the endless woes of the Irish Red Cross are in existence for many years the Blog has also included a link to an RTE news item in 1999 reporting on a call at the time by Irish Red Cross staff for an independent investigation into their own employer in order “to protect the integrity of the organisation”.

The link to the PAC Press Release preceding the hearing into the Irish Red Cross and Noel Wardick’s letter to the PAC (which the PAC published and put into the public domain) are included again.

RTE Breaking News on 13th October 2011:

Irish Times breaking news on 13th October 2011:

John Mc Guinness TD (Chairman of the PAC) Blog:

Examiner newspaper, October 14th 2011:

RTE News report in 1999 on dysfunction within Irish Red Cross and calls by staff for an independent investigation:

Link to PAC Press Release:

Link to Noel Wardick’s letter to PAC:

Irish Times newspaper article on 14th October 2011:

Article transcribed in full below:

Red Cross to face questions on overseas aid donations

THE IRISH Red Cross society is to be asked to respond to allegations that millions of euro, much of which was collected for overseas aid, was retained by the society in domestic accounts.

The Dáil Committee on Public Accounts agreed yesterday to invite the Red Cross to answer questions of corporate governance, including allegations that some €160,000 collected for those affected by a tsunami in Asia remained for a number of years in a bank account in Tipperary.

Committee chairman John McGuinness said similar complaints had been received, including one relating to another instance of €600,000 that had allegedly been retained following a collection in February 2010. He said the overall figure mentioned in this complaint was “millions”.

Mr McGuinness proposed the invitation at the suggestion of Eoghan Murphy TD (FG) after the committee was told by Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley the Red Cross was largely beyond his remit.

The committee was told the Department of Defence, which provides a block grant of €1 million a year to the Irish Red Cross as well as appointing a chairman and about one-third of the Red Cross “council”, had no power to direct the organisation.

At a discussion on financial control in the Irish Red Cross Society, secretary general of the department Michael Howard told committee members: “The Government of Ireland cannot hold the Red Cross to answer.”

He said it was very important to understand no member of the Red Cross was accused of misappropriating money, and while “a number of deficiencies were exposed”, new corporate governance controls were being put in place.

Among the deficiencies was the discovery in recent years of some 49 bank accounts, one of which, in Co Tipperary, contained some €160,000, he acknowledged.

Labour TD Michael McCarthy repeatedly asked Mr Howard when his department had been made aware of the complaints, and what action it had taken. Mr Howard said he could not be certain regarding the complaints, but he had been assured by the society that when people made a donation to it, normal International Red Cross best practice was followed.

This would involve the society making a specific appeal for particular disaster relief, and all donations received for that purpose would serve that purpose. He said in times of specific appeals it was frequently the case that normal donations to the Irish Red Cross, outside the disaster relief appeal, would be received. This latter collection was considered available to the society domestically.

Simon Harris (FG) asked what was the point of having a Government appointing a chairman and about one-third of the council of the Red Cross if they were not available to report on uses of taxpayers’ money.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee to examine financial control in the Irish Red Cross Society

The Blog is pleased to report that the malpractice, maladministration and financial irregularities at the Irish Red Cross are to be discussed by the Dail's (Irish Parliament) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 13th October 2011. This is further evidence of the low standards applying at the organisation. In particular the PAC appears concerned about the undeclared Tipperary Tsunami bank account and the manner in which the Society did or did not deal with it and those involved.

The Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), made up of cross party politicians, is tasked to ensure all government funding and grants are spent effectively and as intended. The PAC review of the Irish Red Cross follows hot on the heels of the review by the Government's financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, whereby a full chapter was given to the Irish Red Cross and its problems.

The disgraced Society continues to refuse to hold those responsible to account and as a result concerns at every level of Irish society, public, media and political, have increased over the last two years. Until those individuals who have brought the Irish Red Cross to this sorry state are held accountable and removed from their posts the damage and loss of reputation will continue unabated.

The Home Page of the Oireachtas (Ireland's Parliament) website announces the PAC's intention to examine financial irregularities at the Irish Red Cross. The link is below as is the full article. In addition to the announcement the PAC has also decided to publish and put into the public domain correspondence it has received from former Irish Red Cross Head of International, Noel Wardick. The link to this correspondence is also below.

Link to PAC announcement to examine Irish Red Cross:

Link to Noel Wardick's letter:

Public Accounts Committee to examine financial control in the Irish Red Cross Society

The Secretary General of the Department of Defence; Orla Barry Murphy, Accounting Officer in the Office of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests; and officials from the Department of Justice will appear before the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow, Thursday, 13th October 2011

A key issue which will be examined at the meeting is the financial control in the Irish Red Cross Society.

Chairman of the Committee, John McGuinness, TD said: “Concerns regarding the capacity of the Society to manage its administration and finance were raised in the past, particularly in relation to a sum of €162,960 that was donated to the 2005 Asian Tsunami Appeal which was left in a local bank account in Tipperary from 2005 to 2008. While no evidence of misappropriation of funds was found and the money was eventually transferred to the appeal fund in September 2008, the case highlighted problems with the governance and financial structures of the organisation.

The Committee will want in particular to see what guidelines, structures and procedures have been put in place to prevent such a situation happening again. We will also be interested in seeing what rules on the handling and tracking of donations have been implemented and if staff and members are receiving adequate training.”

The Committee will meet tomorrow, 13th October at 10am in Committee Room 1, Leinster House 2000.


For further information please contact:

Ciaran Brennan,Houses of the Oireachtas,Communications Unit,Leinster House,Dublin 2
P: +3531 618 3903M: 086-0496518F: +3531 618 4551

Committee of Public Accounts Membership comprises the following TDs (MPs):

John McGuinness (FF, Chairman), Kieran O’Donnell (FG, Chairman), Paul J Connaughton FG, John Deasy FG, Paschal Donohoe FG, Anne Ferris Lab, Simon Harris FG, Michael Mc Carthy Lab, Mary Lou Mc Donald SF, Michael Mc Grath FF, Eoghan Murphy FG, Derek Nolan Lab, Shane Ross Ind.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A question for Sinn Fein's leading presidential hopeful regarding Irish Red Cross

In the event presidential hopeful Mr. Martin Mc Guinness decides to enlighten us in detail on his IRA past perhaps he could clarify the exact role played by the Irish Red Cross in the establishment of the Provisional IRA.

At the time of the Arms Trial involving Charles Haughey and co, the late Leslie Bean De Barra, wife of guerrilla leader Tom Barry, and someone with known IRA sympathies, was director of the Irish Red Cross. Justin O'Brien, in his highly authoritative work, the Arms Trial, says the money from the Department of Finance, originally transferred to the Irish Red Cross Society to protect refugees from the North, was in fact used "to finance the emergence of the Provisional IRA". For readers not familiar, Charles Haughey, a former Irish Prime Minister, was charged with smuggling guns and funding to the Provisional IRA in the early days of his political career (1970s). It led to one of the most controversial and bitter trials in Irish history.

If Mr. Mc Guinness becomes President he automatically becomes President of the Irish Red Cross. Now there's irony for you. President of Ireland and President of the very organisation that played a role in the establishment of the IRA, which as everyone knows was an illegal terrorist organisation. Martin Mc Guinness was a leading member of the IRA for decades.

Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible-Victor Frankl (1905-1997)