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:

http://debates.oireachtas.ie/ACC/2011/10/13/00005.asp


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:
http://www.anhourago.eu/show.aspx?l=32088154&d=504

Irish Times breaking news on 13th October 2011:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/1013/breaking47.html

John Mc Guinness TD (Chairman of the PAC) Blog:
http://johnmcguinness.ie/public-accounts-committee-chairman-john-mcguinness-had-said-he-will-write-to-the-irish-red-cross-with-the-transcripts-of-todays-proceedings-during-which-a-number-of-issues-were-raised

Examiner newspaper, October 14th 2011:
http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/closure-of-army-barracks-could-save-millions-and-strengthen-peacekeeping-170656.html

RTE News report in 1999 on dysfunction within Irish Red Cross and calls by staff for an independent investigation:
http://www.rte.ie/news/1999/1123/redcross.html

Link to PAC Press Release:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/mediazone/pressreleases/name-2655-en.html

Link to Noel Wardick’s letter to PAC:
http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=19158&CatID=170

Irish Times newspaper article on 14th October 2011:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/1014/1224305756426.html

Article transcribed in full below:

Red Cross to face questions on overseas aid donations
TIM O'BRIEN

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.
ENDS

24 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:01 PM

    If you think the Official from the Dept. of Defence looked uncomfortable at the PAC, the look on Donal Fordes face will be something to behold when he is called to give evidence at the next meeting. He will be familliar with this process as he was questioned in 2008 about issues with AIB he was perhaps less than genuine on that occasion.

    An extract from the indo in 2007 - 'However, Donal Forde, who is ultimately responsible for €70bn of outstanding loans as boss of AIB Bank in the Republic, says he has good reason to sleep easy (Irish Independent Nov. 2007. I bet he isn't sleeping too easy now. Mr Forde might have thought in leaving AIB he would get a well earned rest. The Irish Red Cross have gone through more Sec, Gen. than a hungry shark snacking on seals. So lucky fro Forde he has a good pension. Then agin the PAC might do the right thing and forget Forde and bring in the real culprits Lawlor, Noonan, Callan and the rest of the Central Council. Why not? Bring them all in to account for not accounting for millions of public money.

    At last someone is listening about the ongoings within the IRC

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  2. Anonymous12:05 PM

    Well done Noel, they must be just livid anytime they mention your name. They are now suffering the consequences of not listening to you and doing the right thing.

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  3. Anonymous8:41 AM

    Noel, another link for the blog, this one to the full transcript of the Public Accounts Committee Hearing, see below.

    Anyone who believes the half truths, inaccuracies and spin put out by the Department of Defence believes in the tooth fairy. You were right, the TDs were gunning for the Irish Red Cross and their foolish defenders in the Department of Defence. Congratulations to you. You have the highest Dail Committee in the land investigating the rotten Irish Red Cross. Its an amazing achievement and just shows that a few determined individuals can expose corruption and incompetence. You have been spectacularly successful. Link is:

    http://debates.oireachtas.ie/ACC/2011/10/13/00005.asp

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  4. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Indeed, well done. I just hope the Central Council realise the significance and level of disgrace brought upon the Red Cross Movement as a whole by their actions and inactions over the last decades. I watched the Public Accounts Committee hearing on malpractice at the Irish Red Cross. Initial impressions are frustrating in that the committee gives the air of stifled beauracratic political speak, but having reviewed the transcript the anger of the PAC Chairman is evident. What is also evident is that the Department of Defence is simply a mouthpiece for the spin and blurb from the Irish Red Cross. The Department clearly don't care about the Red Cross, it has been nothing but an annoyance for them.
    Despite the restrained questioning at the PAC the Central Council, I hope, must realise the seriousness and the consequences of this investigation. Each and everyone of them are responsible and answerable. Do they understand they are under investigation?

    Also a minor clarification, at the PAC both sides were at pains to note that no money was misapprpiated or "went missing". This point is particularly understandable in light of the Irish Red Cross' preference to go running to their lawyers to issue threatening letters at every opportunity. However, I must ask: What in God's name constitutes "missing money"? Does money sitting UNDECALRED in a Tipperary bank account for 4 years, NOT serving the purpose for which the public donated it, not constitute missing money? Does the fact that this money was only ever discovered after a secret internal audit not add to the argument that this money was indeed missing? Does the fact that the vice chairman of the Irish Red Cross was signatory to this account holding missing money not constitute the need for some accountability by him and others?

    Of course not, accountability in the Irish Red Cross means firing those who have the moral and ethical courage to challenge those people destroying the Irish Red Cross - the same people bringing endless shame on the Red Cross Movement.

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  5. Anonymous12:47 AM

    When the Irish Red Cross goes to give their evidence before the PAC, will they provide the committee with all the historical data which proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the culture of removing monies during Appeals was systematic in Red Cross. Will they supply the PAC with the evidence from the sacking of Mr Louis White where he was removed due to his refusal to carry out a financial duty which he knew to be immoral and perhaps illegal? If the PAC really wishes to get to the bottom of this culture they should ask several former members of staff who will have I have no doubts categorical proof of the financial irregularities within the Irish Red Cross. This has been orchestrated by a small group of individuals who remain in office. Will the PAC bring in Coopers and Lybrand and BDO to give evidence?

    I trust that we might yet have a formal full commission of investigation into some of the irregularities within the Red Cross. One must not forget that an assurance that they are putting things right does not negate their responsibilities for all the wrong doing especially when those responsible remain in Office.

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  6. Anonymous2:15 PM

    The next time someone gets caught with something they should not have all they have to do is say, well its not really missing as I have it. So you can give it back and then get away scot free like those in the Irish Red Cross. Perhaps I must be mistaken, but I was brought up to believe if you hold onto something that does not belong to you or hide something that does not belong to you and you get caught you are guilty of theft. For one simple reason, 'ITS NOT YOURS TO HIDE OR KEEP'. I wonder what would have happened if those responsible for the Tipperary tsunami bank account had not got caught? What would have happened to that money in the long term? We will never know the answer to that but alot of people have plenty of theories on it! Now lets hear about the €7m undeclared properties Irish Red Cross has and then we might get a better answer to that question.

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  7. Anonymous1:50 AM

    Just to clarify, money DID go missing in Irish Red Cross. The Tipperary tsunami money went missing for 4 years until those responsible for making it go missing were caught. Only then was it returned.

    The fact that those responsible are still on the board of IRC has resulted in the reputation of the organisation sinking into the gutter where it will stay as long as those responsible stay

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  8. Anonymous1:53 AM

    The next Central Council meeting is sometime in November. Will Irish Red Cross wait until the last minute to give the date for fear of a campaign to oust the Vice Chairman and Treasurer for their incompetence?

    Will even one Central Council member have the moral fibre and backbone to stand up at the November meeting and demand the removal of the Vice Chairman and the Treasurer?

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  9. Anonymous8:24 AM

    To the person who made the comment about Central Council members having moral fibre, has this matter not already been evaluated and ascertained. The current members of the Central Council do not have moral fibre and have as much bone as your average jelly fish. They have known about the corruption within the Society, for several years, many of them for decades.

    Most of them are just there for the tea and to swan about in a hotel in Dublin. As for knowledge of the actual workings and obligations of the National Society between the lot of them they would have enough energy to boil a kettle. The only expert in law Jenny Bulbulia saw through them and resigned, Every single one of them have received letters highlighting irregularities within the Red Cross, not a single one of them have responded. So if its someone to fit under a low door you want, the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross will fulfil that purpose nicely.

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  10. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I wonder how many of the current Central Council of the Irish Red Cross know that the President of Ireland is the President ofthe Irish Red Cross. Mary Robinson was very active with the Red Cross on her visit to Somalia. She soon was to find out the Irish Red Cross are distinctly different from any other National Society globally. The last two President made sure they had little or nothing to do with the Red Cross other than the mandatory parade of uniforms that must be endured evey year. The memebrs of Red Cross never get invited to this gathering, only the elite First Aid bunch who control the Society. I saw a question from Noel Wardick and Gerard Moyne on Facebook it appears that none of those running have a clue about the Red Cross, they will know soon enough perhaps.

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  11. Anonymous1:47 AM

    When the Irish Red Cross is called before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee to explain their misgovernance and their financial wrongdoings will it be Tony Lawlor and Ted Noonan who face the Committee members? Will the former Treasurer Des Kavanagh be asked to appear before the Committee? These are the people who need to be robustly questioned.

    While Donal Forde has previous experience appearing before the Dail Committee when he was Head of AIB the people who need to explain themselves are those listed above.

    Will the Irish Red Cross Chairman, David O Callaghan appear before the Committee? Interesting that he was previously the Head of the Department of Defence, the department that has stuck its head in the sand for years over the Irish Red Cross. What a nightmare it will be for him. He will have to defend his inactions when he was the Head of Department of Defence and in addition his inactions since he became Chairman of Irish Red Cross. I cant wait to see him try to wriggle out of questioning on why he cancelled the independent investigation into the Irish Red Cross undeclared bank accounts. Either way it will be good to see these people in the dock of the Committee

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  12. Anonymous2:17 AM

    When is the November Central Council meeting of the Irish Red Cross?

    As per the comment above will any member show courage and do the right thing and demand the resingation of Tony Lawlor and Ted Noonan? After all that has happened this is essential.

    The Irish Red Cross is in for a roasting and a half when they appear before the Public Accounts Committee and the presence of Lawlor and Noonan on the Irish Red Cross board will give the Committee members ammunition to to bombard which ever mouthpieces IRC sends in to defend them.

    If I was Forde and David O' Callaghan I would demand the resignations of Lawlor and Noonan and if they refused I would refuse to attend the Public Accounts Committee Hearing and I would let the Committee know the reasons.

    Its a mystery to me why Forde and O' Callaghan are going to allow themselves be humiliated at the Hearing defending people who are indefensible. Look what happened to the head of the Department of Defence at the Committee hearing on 13th Oct. I'd wager that was the worst performance before a Dail Committee in his (Michael Howard's) entire career. He looked like your classic spoofer who was spinning the truth and covering up. He was very uncomfortable during the questioning and may have damaged his own reputation as he didnt looked well briefed and appeared to defend the Irish Red Cross when no-one in their right mind would do so knowing what has gone on. The same fate as befell Howard awaits Forde and David O' Callaghan if they go in to the Committee Hearing without first getting Lawlor and Noonan's resignation.

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  13. Anonymous2:02 PM

    If the people of Ireland say yes to the referendum on giving the Oireachtas greater investigative powers I hope that will mean the Public Accounts Committee will also get greater investigative powers and I hope it uses these extra powers to rigorously continue its investigation into the Irish Red Cross and hold those responsible to account. Or maybe a special committee will be established to investigate the Society.

    The Taoiseach has said the first investigation under the new powers will be into the Banking crisis and those responsible and in senior banking positions at the time will be hauled in before the new investigative committee which will be held in public for all to witness. The Irish Red Cross will therefore be indirectly dragged into this. What a mess but one can only hope that over time all those people responsible for gross incompetence and financial irregularities in this country will be fully held to account

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  14. Anonymous8:24 AM

    According to the Irish Times the government has reduced funding to homeless organisations like Focus Ireland and the Simon Community by 10%.

    If well deserving organisations like those above have 10% cuts in funding inflicted on them it doesnt bode well for what will happen to government funding to disgraced organisations like the Irish Red Cross.

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  15. Anonymous12:39 PM

    Fair play to Robert Troy, Fianna Fail TD for Longford-Westmeath who asked a parliamentary question about the Irish Red Cross in the Dail on 26th October.

    I havent seen this TD ask a question before so hopefully it means people in the Longford-Westmeath area are concerned about the crisis at the Irish Red Cross. The more questons from the more TDs the more pressure and we all know the Irish Red Cross will only ever change its ways so long as it remains under scrutiny and under pressure. Well done to whoever submitted the question to Deputy Troy, its keeps the pressure on the IRC and prevents them getting away with their cronyism and misuse of monies. The link is:

    http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2011-10-26.768.0&s=Irish+Red+Cross#g770.0.r

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  16. Anonymous12:44 PM

    In the Dail on 26-10-2011 Minister Alan Shatter said that the Board of the Civil Defence 'was a quango which served no useful purpose'. The board has been disbanded and Civil Defence is being made a branch of the Department. Minister Shatter is not one to mince his words.

    Lets hope he gets stuck into the Irish Red Cross with similar determination becasue its the only way people such as the Vice Chairman and Treasurer will ever be forced out as the Central Council has shown it is devoid of any courage to remove these people.

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  17. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Will this mean that Donal Forde the Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross, might have to give evidence to two Dail investigations, the plot thickens.

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  18. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Front page of Irish Times on October 28th has an advert from Irish Red Cross asking for money for the recent one day floods in Dublin.

    Before donating people should remember what happened in 2009 when Irish Red Cross last collected for a major flooding disaster. The floods happened in Nov 2009. Irish Red Cross advertised and appealed for money. They went on TV3 and gave assurances on national television that they would start issuing the money within 48 hours. What happened next? Well the usual Irish Red Cross response....nothing. Four months later not a penny of the €1 million collected had been issued to a single person or family. This got Irish Red Cross a big bad headline and story in the Sunday Independent in March 2010 about their failure to spend the money. Funnily enough after the exposure in the media the money was promptly distributed. Sound familiar?

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  19. Anonymous4:27 AM

    I wonder has any of the many Irish Red Cross undeclared and secret properties and houses they have hidden all over the country been damaged in the recent floods?? Will they be using their floods appeals money to fix their own properties?!!!

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  20. Anonymous2:07 PM

    It remains a mystery how the Irish Red Cross is permitted to retain its membership of the international Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement. Surely there must be some minimum requirements not only for inital registration and recognition for membership of this august body but for continued membership.
    Without the option for deregistration of erring National Societies such as the Irish Red Cross the name of the International Red Cross / Crescent Movement will inevitably suffer from lack of integrity.

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  21. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Cute Whore Ireland is so engrained in our culture, that to remove it from the IRC would be a task much geater than the peace process in Northern Ireland. The Irish Red Cross is a sham they know it and the Nation know it. The members of its Governing body are the greatest sham of all. Not a single one of them have the capacity nor the bravery to stand and be counted. They are like white middle class Americans in the southern states in the 1960s with an unwillingness to allow any form of change which they fought agaisnt tooth and nail. The IRC board held hands and rejoiced whilst Anthony Lawlor and his cronies hid money, hid properties, took money out of accounts belonging to the vulnerable. Not one of these high and mighty children of Erin stood up and said 'This is Wrong', so Mr Blogger don't think for one minute that they care about the PAC or any other body, they have the Minister Alan Shatter on their side, and an ex Sec. Gen of Dept. of Defence as their Chriaman , and a Banker. What more could one ask for.

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  22. Anonymous12:13 PM

    They will not be using money to fix their own propeties because they don't own any according to BDO, anyway they are already up to their necks in water anyway! I wouldn't give them a penny and any fool who does, well, its a free country.

    I wonder will Mcihael D be hosting the Irish Red Cross now that he is becoming President of it? He made sure he didn't answer any questiond relating to it during the election.

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  23. Anonymous2:14 AM

    Is it any wonder that the Minister Alan Shatter is taking the word of Mr O Callaghan (Chairman of the IRC) former Sec. Gen of the Dept of Defence, when he regards the former Attorney Generals as having no credibility? What a disgraceful comment from a serving representative of this country. One now realises how much power these civil servants have over politicians, when Minister Shatter cannot see, that he is being taken for a ride. Remember Mr O Callaghan had one of his staff approve the appeal of the decision of Walsh v Red Cross. What can you expect when common sense is void? They lost the appeal and were sent away discredited. Mr O Callaghan is just accepts what Mr Lawlor has done and this is shown in that Mr. O' Callaghan was scared to call in an outside body to investigate Lawlor, as it would show up just how much Fianna Fail were involved in the running of the Red Cross as well as all the other skeletons including Department of Defence inaction when he was in charge of it.

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  24. Anonymous12:43 AM

    I would now appear that the Dept. of Finance and the Vice Chairman of the Irish Red Cross have something in common. The Vice Chairman facilitated the hiding of 162 thousand Euro belonging to the Tsunami Appeal and a heap of properties all over Ireland. The Dept of Finance mislaid 3.5 Billion. Easy done, maybe it was resting in an account in Tipperary alongside the Tsunami money. The Sec. Gen. of the Dept of finance is now working in Europe, what does this say about the Irish people? and what message does it give regarding the Red Cross, when you can act against the Principles and remain in a senior position unscathed.

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