Thursday, November 3, 2011

Minister indicates a cut in Irish Red Cross government funding maybe on the cards

Minister for Justice, Defence and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter, in an appearance before the Irish Parliament’s Joint Committee on Justice and Defence, gave the strongest indication yet that he is considering a cut in the government’s grant to the Irish Red Cross.

In response to questioning by Deputy Dara Calleary, Fianna Fail, on the ongoing misgovernance and mismanagement at the Society the Minister said “The capacity of my Department to pay to the Irish Red Cross a sum next year the same as this year-particularly with regard to its funding of its headquarters-is an issue that must be addressed. At this moment I am unable to guarantee the funding position for this year for any particular agency outside the Department”.

Given that the Irish Red Cross rejected the Minister’s written request of 16th May 2011 to address the issue of long serving board members by re-appointing the Society’s Vice Chairman for the 21st year in a row and reappointing the Treasurer to serve for his 10th year on the board it should come as no surprise that the Minister is considering cutting the grant to the Society. In speaking before the Justice and Defence Committee the Minister, in relation to board service, said the following:

However, I have a concern that the board of the Irish Red Cross in particular-the main oversight group within the Red Cross-should have a reasonable turnover of individual members. I do not regard it as good for an organisation that an individual may fill an executive position for 15 or 20 years and that no one else has an opportunity in real terms as opposed to in theory, to fill that position. Every organisation needs to encourage its grassroots members to stand for executive positions to give them an opportunity to participate at a higher level and to be engaged in making managerial, strategic and administrative decisions”

Democracy is about choice and without choice there is no democracy. For years and years the Irish Red Cross national Vice Chairman has been returned as Vice Chairman by virtue of being the sole candidate nominated. This is reflective of, in reality as opposed to in theory to quote the Minister, a highly undemocratic and unhealthy organisation.

In relation to Minister Shatter’s letter of 16th May 2011 serious questions must be asked and answers demanded as to why this letter was not brought to the attention of Central Council members at their meeting of 28th May 2011. It is incredulous that an organisation that received a very specific written request from a senior government minister directly concerning the election and appointment of its board members would fail to bring such correspondence to the attention of those very same board members. It is even more incredulous when one considers that the Central Council meeting of the 28th May had as one of its primary agenda items the election of the 2011/12 Executive Committee, an area in which the Minister wished to see reform and change.

Not bringing the above letter to the attention of Central Council members can only be described as outright and flagrant misgovernance of the highest order. The Minister’s letter was addressed to the Society’s Chairman, Mr. David O’ Callaghan. He must explain why it was decided and by whom that only he and a select few were made aware of the letter and why its existence and contents were kept undisclosed to all other Central Council members.

The letter's existence only became known when the Minister himself made public reference to it in a speech in the Dail in June 2011. This Blog, in pursuing its objective to bring transparency and truth to the Irish Red Cross, then updated members on its existence and contents.

It can only be hoped that at the upcoming Central Council meeting due to be held later this month (still no date though!) that Central Council members will demand answers and insist they be shown the respect they deserve as the supreme deliberative authority of the Society. Failure to do so will ensure they remain consigned to irrelevance where they have allowed themselves be confined for years.

The unfortunate aspect of any government funding cut is that it will potentially jeopardise jobs at the Society’s headquarters. Already there have been redundancies during 2011 in two of the regional offices.

As with many aspects of Irish society those most impacted by negligence, incompetence, misuse of resources and financial irregularities are those most innocent of any wrongdoing. The Irish Red Cross is no exception to this. As such it is likely staff will pay the heaviest price for the wrongs of their superiors.

Should Irish Red Cross staff face redundancy in the New Year they can lay the blame squarely at the feet of their intransigent, obdurate and incompetent board. The Minister’s responsibility is to protect Irish tax payers money and if he in any way feels the competency, probity or ability of the board to safeguard those and other funds is under any question he has no option but to reduce or suspend the grant in its entirety. The Minister has clearly sent a warning shot across the bow of the Irish Red Cross in his comments to the Oireachtas Justice and Defence Committee. Based on historical evidence, however, it can be assumed with near certainty that the Irish Red Cross will ignore it. They have acted with impunity for decades and believe they can continue to do so.

The Minister, in discussing the undeclared Tipperary tsunami bank account with the Committee stated “I refer to the infamous situation within the Irish Red Cross where substantial funds were raised in one area and were retained in a bank account and not utilised”. It would appear from the Minister’s speech that even in government ministerial circles the Irish Red Cross Tipperary tsunami undeclared bank account on which the Society’s national Vice Chairman, Anthony (Tony) Lawlor, was a signatory, is considered “infamous”.

In his concluding remarks to the members of the Committee the Minister made clear his feelings when he said “It is in the interests of the Irish Red Cross that further change occurs...”. At this stage the dogs in the street know exactly what change is required. Those responsible for the financial irregularities and years of negligence and misuse of resources at the Society need to be removed. Failure to do so and the next shot from the Minister may not be across the bow but directly at it.

When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement. We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing-Richard Skinner

On a separate matter:

The Irish Red Cross was briefly discussed again at the all party Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in the Dail on the 20th October 2011. This followed on from the previous week (13th Oct) when financial irregularities at the Society constituted the main discussion. It is clear the Public Accounts Committee intends to continue its investigations into matters at the Irish Red Cross, something that in the public interest is to be very much welcomed.

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:58 AM

    The annual grant by Government to the Irish Red Cross is indicative of the status and standing of the Society nationally.
    The Government grant not only provides much needed and reliable funding but also offers opportunities for interaction and influence around a variety of programme and policy issues that should be of mutual interest.
    Irish Red Cross needs a positive relationship with its Government Department for continuing engagement bilaterally and via membership of Dochas (umbrella aid organisation)on the development of a new multi annual funding framework that is expected to commence in January 2012.
    In most countries the Red Cross would be the largest recipient of government grants. This is not the case in Ireland where for example an organisation such as Oxfam where Irish Aid committed to €2.3m of grant aid for the year ending March 2011 as part of a 3 year block grant.
    The current governance is threatening the future of the Irish Red Cross financially as well as morally and ethically. It is a shame which extends beyond the corridors of Merrion Square.

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  2. Anonymous12:30 PM

    If hardworking and honest staff lose their jobs it will be sad but understandable from the Minister's point of view. He has been left with no option by the inadequacies of the IRC board. His first responsibility is to protect government funds.

    Irish Red Cross staff should demand the resignation of the national Vice Chairman and the national Treasurer. At this stage its down to self preservation and protection of jobs. If these guys dont go the reputation and credibility of the IRC will forever be damaged, funding will be very difficult to come by and staff's jobs will always be at risk.

    Staff can stay silent if they wish but thats what lambs to the slaughter do and the result for them is never good.

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  3. Anonymous2:23 PM

    The second commenter should check their facts,over the years staff have repeatedly spoken out about the goings on within IRC,if Minister Shatters requests have been ignored only recently do you think that the staff will be listened to? The creator of this blog is an ex staff member, ex for speaking out against the dictatorship that is IRC or should I say Lawlorland.

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  4. Anonymous2:35 AM

    A number of Ministers have shown great patience with the Irish Red Cross. They must be the only organisation in the country who did not have their funding cut in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011. Far more deserving organisations have had severe cuts inflicted on their budgets because of the recession.

    With the dire record of misgovernance and incompetence at the Irish Red Cross as well as a strong whiff of serious wrongdoing the Minister will be forced to reduce or even cancel funding to the Society. The Irish Red Cross had three years to remove the people responsible and foolishly chose not to. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Sadly staff will suffer either by way of redundancies or reductions in wages and pensions. Not one incompetent board member will suffer.

    The Irish Red Cross should expect to see its government grant cut in 2012, again in 2013 and again in 2014. The Department of Defence is determined to distance itself as far as possible from the Irish Red Cross as its own reputation is being seriously damaged by its association with it. The gravy train for Irish Red Cross is slowing down and about time.

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  5. Anonymous10:44 AM

    If staff stay silent there is a good chance a number of them will lose their jobs over the coming 3 years. If any staff member speaks out alone and demands the resignation of Lawlor and Noonan they will lose their jobs. Damned if you do and damned if you dont. Sums up the dysfunctional ruined state of the Irish Red Cross.

    Staff should do what staff did in 1999 and collectively go to RTE News and demand reform and demand the resignation of those responsible. Now that was courage in action! That way there wouldnt be a chance in hell they would get fired and Lawlor's position would become untenable and staff would go along way towards protecting their own jobs.

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  6. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I heard today there is a parliamentary question down in Dail Eireann concerning the awarding of the Irish Red Cross IT contract to a UK company. The Minister's response should be issued shortly.

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  7. Anonymous1:39 AM

    When Mr Howard gave evidence (or didn't) at the recent PAC, I wonder had he discussed the issue with his predecessor Mr O Callaghan, Mr Callaghan has quite some knowledge of the Irish Red Cross, not just now as Chairman, but in his position as Secretary General of the Dept. of Defence. His Dept received more correspondence in relation to that organisation than any other. Tens of thousands of documents would have slid across O Callaghan's desk. Then there was Mr O Callaghans dept’s representative on the board of the Red Cross. There appears to be little spoken of the Dept of defence’s representative on the board of the Red Cross and their representatives on some of the sub – committees. Were did the reports go from these individuals to O Callaghan. When the Overseas Committee were disbanded in the early nineties as suggested in a previous blog article, due to that committee making the Executive and O Callaghan aware of the financial irregularities within the Society. What did Mr O Callaghan do with this information?
    Will he now let the PAC know what he knows? and has hidden for years! Mr Howard says, he trusts O Callaghan, trusts him to do what ? Trust the word of a man who has known all this for years and has, like the Tipperary find (fund) kept it all hidden?

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  8. Anonymous4:18 AM

    I think you'll find that the majority of those who did appear on RTE in 1999 lost their jobs. Nothing changed then, why do you think that it would be different this time round?
    And seriously - why are people still bleating on about the IT contract going to a UK company?? As far as I'm aware the contract was put out to tender and they came back with the best package. Why should the IRC pay extra for an inferior product just because it's Irish?? Do we really want to go back to a time when they were spending crazy money on "Made in Ireland" blankets?! Stop LOOKING for faults and creating mountains out of molehills - focus on the real issues.

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  9. Anonymous5:03 AM

    At least 3 of the staff who went on RTE in 1999 are still employed at Irish Red Cross headquarters and 3 excellent and dedicated staff they are too.

    Yes some of those who went to RTE in 1999 were removed but others left voluntarily (although probably out of despair and disillusionment). Of course the reaction of the geniuses on the Board at the time was to suggest firing all the staff involved which would have virtually wiped out the head office. That is the sort of mentality and intellect that existed on the board at the time and which prevails today. Thankfully they didnt get to implement their insane reaction.

    Re the IT contract does the commentator above think for one minute that there is no company in Ireland, a country considered in the top class of IT knowledge and know how and one with massive smart economy experience and skills couldnt have provided a company to handle the IT contract? The issue is not so much Irish Red Cross awarding a contract to a UK company when it could have found an equally if not better Irish company but rather is it paying the UK company out of the government grant, as in Irish taxpayers money? The Irish Government has an obligation to ensure tax payers money is well spent and in doing so contributing to reducing the 450,000 number of unemployed. I presume this is why the issue has been raised in Dail Eireann.

    The awarding of the IT contract per se is therefore not the issue but rather the manner in which decisions are made within the Irish Red Cross and on what basis, who is involved and why they are involved. To raise it, given all the scandals and questions marks over the Irish Red Cross, is entirely legitimate.

    Remember those individuals responsible for the 'real issues' remain in place at the Irish Red Cross and therefore every decision needs to be analysed and questioned because these people have shown themselves to be incapable of doing the right thing and doing whats best for the Society.

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  10. Anonymous7:02 AM

    Serious cuts coming in the budget as outlined by Minister Noonan. These cuts will continue every year until 2015. Lets pray Irish Red Cross staff are not the casualties for their bosses sins but I cant see Irish Red Cross escaping a serious cut in their funding over the next few years. The never ending incompetence of its board demands nothing less.

    There is time to save the funding. At the upcoming November Central Council meeting members should demand the resignation of Tony Lawlor and Ted Noonan. The Chairman and Secretary General can then go to the Minister and inform him true and genuine reform is under way and request that he continue to support this process by way of maintaining current funding for 2012.

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  11. Anonymous4:59 PM

    When an organisation like the Irish Red CRoss is found to have at least 49 undisclosed bank accounts with one held in the name of its national Vice Chairman and a whole bunch of properties around the country undeclared and kept off its books is it any wonder the Minister will be forced to cut funding to the Society. Its a miracle the Irish Red Cross got any funding in 2011. In fact you could argue the Minister was incompetent by giving taxpayers money to an organisation with a highly questionable record on governance and financial procedures.

    There are just too many unanswered questions and too many questions marks hanging over a number of decision makers in the Irish Red Cross. I agree with comments previously posted about inviting in the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to advise on the 49 undisclosed bank accounts and the undisclosed properties.

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  12. Anonymous4:00 AM

    49 What about the rest ? There are more!

    Maybe no one has looked!

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  13. Anonymous5:49 AM

    Irish Red Cross is belatedly responding to flood affected.
    Check out http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/irish-red-cross-helps-victims-of-dublin-floods-527368.html

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  14. Anonymous7:01 AM

    Will the Irish Red Cross publish how much money it raised in the current Floods Appeal, how much it is taking for administration and how much it has and will be distributing to families and the average amount distributed?

    Is the Irish Red Cross taking at face value the word and assessments of the Social Welfare Community Officers or does it have the capacity to randomly verify and evaluate these assessments itself? If so how are these 'double check' procedures carried out and who does them and what experience and training do the staff involved have?

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  15. Anonymous5:14 AM

    Irish Government to set up a €10 million fund for recent flood victims. Breaking with tradition not one penny of this will be given to Irish Red Cross to administer. Traditionally the Irish Red Cross has administered government flood relief funds on behalf of the government. I suspect the revelations of financial irregularities, 49 secret bank accounts and a huge undeclared property porfolio and continuing misgovernance have ensured the government wouldnt give a penny of this €10 million to the Irish Red Cross

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  16. Anonymous8:55 AM

    But what are the Red Cross on about, them giving out money to the victims?

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  17. Anonymous2:12 AM

    There were another 5 Parliamentary Questions asked in the Dail on 9th November about serious misgovernance in the Irish Red Cross. The focus was once again on the Irish Red Cross national Vice Chairman and his 21 years on the board and why he hasnt stepped down and why he is allowed remain on the board.

    Questions were also asked about the Irish Red Cross Treasurer.

    It is remarkable that in our national parliament there are regular questions and concerns raised about the Irish Red Cross Vice Chairman and the Treasurer and still nothing is ever done about it.

    Thank god for democracy because it ensures these people will not get away scot free even if they remain in their positions. Because of the PQs the public record will record what they did and what they failed to do. And that is very important. Its in the public interest that this information is made known. Well done to the politicians who continue to pursue the truth at the Irish Red Cross.

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  18. Anonymous9:56 AM

    Fair play to Mary Wilson of RTE Radio One last week when she grilled the Irish Red Cross spokesperson on their floods response. It was obvious she was well aware of the allegations that Irish Red Cross allocates vast sums of overseas money to purposes other than that intended by the donor. She sought assurances that the same wouldnt happen with flood donations.

    It was no surprise to hear the Irish Red Cross spokesperson make a mess of the answer and struggle to answer a simple question with a simple straightforward answer. The answer provided by the spokesperson only added to the doubts about Irish Red Cross. Such was the extent of the fudged answer that the spokesperson had to ring back the show and provide Mary Wilson with a better thought out and articulated response which Mary Wilson informed listeners about. This further raised doubts and concerns.

    The Irish Red Cross spokesperson was a new spokesperson as far as I know. I had never heard him on the airwaves before. Cant remember his name, maybe Finian something?? Seems IRC has more spokespersons and with a higher turnover than they do of Secretary Generals...and thats saying something!!! They even had a different spokesperson on RTE One 6.01 news on the same topic!!! Luckily for IRC the 6.01 news reporter didnt ask the difficult questions like Mary Wilson did.

    When will Irish Red Cross reveal how much money they have raised for the floods and how much will be distributed?

    It appears Irish Red Cross is using the floods for media coverage but dig deep and the answers about the size of the funds raised and available for the public may reveal that all the media publicity they seek is mostly show and little substance.

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  19. Anonymous10:07 AM

    I saw a picture of Tony Lawlor down in Cork giving an award to a lady for caring and winning the Irish Red Cross carer of the year. This is what is known as an oxymoron. The woman who won is an inspiration and her story an incredible example of courage, determination and selfless love and dedication to her family. On the other hand Anthony Lawlor in the picture was a disappointment as he doesnt deserve to be in the same league as the amazing woman who legitimately won the carer of the year award.

    Sadly ironic that one person who brings pride and endless credit to the Irish Red Cross and who thankfully was recognised for her amazing contributions to her family pictured along with someone who has brought nothing but discredit and shame to the Irish Red Cross. Such is life I suppose.

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  20. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Following constant pressure for transparency and openness, something we know Irish Red Cross, doesnt like they have informed the media that their Floods Appeal raised €30,000 and that 30 families have been given €1,000 each.

    It would be good if IRC would clarify how much money in total they raised in the immediate aftermath of the floods and how much of this did they allocate to the floods (€30k presumably) and how much was allocated to their domestic account they use to pay legal fees and consultant bills etc.

    At the recent Dail Public Accounts Committee Hearing into financial mis-goings-on at the Irish Red Cross the Department of Defence conceded IRC allocates monies raised during an appeal to their domestic account once a person does not specifically state the money is for the 'floods' or whatever the appeal is. This is a very questionable practice that has deceived tens of thousands of Irish people over the last few years so it would be helpful to know how much in total IRC raised in the immediate aftermath of the floods and what proportion was not allocated to the floods.

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  21. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I heard that RTE Radio interview with Mary Wilson and I agree the Irish Red Cross spokesman was not comfortable answering her questions on funding. He just added to the long list of concerns about that organisation.

    A quote from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Hearing of 10th November 2011:

    "We have not finished with the Irish Red Cross issue and will return to it"

    Fair play to the PAC. They appear to accept something is very wrong at the Irish Red Cross and seem determined to get to the bottom of it.

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  22. Anonymous1:08 AM

    The Minister has stated I beleive, that the Irish Red Cross are in keeping with best practice, as regards their misuse of donataions for Appeals. The Minister is obviously speaking from the bottom of a very deep well.

    In all my years in dealing with appeals, I have known no Society in Europe that removes money from appeals and allocates it to their own domestic fund for paying, what are very questionable expenses. The Irish Red Cross are one of the highest spenders on legal fees in Ireland. One must question why this is? Perhaps it's because they have so many peculiar practices, that they are constantly on the defensive. The Ministry of Defence spend more time answering questions on the Red Cross than on the Dept. of Defence itself.
    So would someone please tell the Minister that no one esle in Europe collects money for an Appeal and spends it on legal fees and expenses.

    The Irish Red Cross are a sham organisation and one which most Red Cross Societies in the World would insure to distance themselves from. The Federation and the ICRC are keeping themsleves well away from the IRC incase they are seen to involved in this mess.

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  23. Anonymous7:10 AM

    With regard to the Federaton and ICRC lack of involvement; I have contacted each of them to find out what influence they are bringing to bear on IRC. The Federation has not responded to repeated requests while the ICRC advise that they support changes in the Statutes and are in contact with ICRC.
    I feel sure that both the Federation and the ICRC must be aware that IRC in its present form of governance and weakened management is a liability to the Movement.
    The ICRC has itself a problem in that whilst it is the authority to accept or reject applications for membership of the International Red Cross / Cescent; it does not have the authority to take membership away from erring societies such as IRC.
    The International Federation of RC/RC depends on providing support at the invitation of the National Society. It is unlikely that IRC would seek such support so the Federation is equally without authority to hold IRC to account.
    The Irish Red Cross Society knows very well that the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement is reliant on each National Society to themselves behave with integrity.
    The IRC is blatently flouting its membership of a well respected International Movement. Just look at their website to see how much information is lifted directly from the International websites and its clear that the confidence trick extends to raising money on the back of others endeavour.
    At least the government have their eyes on the IRC and will clearly call those responsible for this mess to account in the very near future.

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