Thursday, January 19, 2012

Parliamentary Committee exposes financial and governance scandals at Irish Red Cross

NOTE: The Examiner newspaper carries an article in its 20th Jan 2012 edition concerning the admission in Parliament by the Irish Red Cross that its serving Vice Chairman, Tony Lawlor, was one of the signatories on an undisclosed bank account containing €160,000. The link to the article is:

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/red-cross-admits-vice-chairman-was-signatory-on-undisclosed-bank-account-180840.html

NOTE 2: The Public Accounts Committee has published on public record the following letter from Noel Wardick to Irish Red Cross Chairman, David O' Callaghan:

http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/pac/correspondence/2012-meeting241901/%5BPAC-R-237%5DCorrespondence-3.7.pdf

The Irish Red Cross was subjected to nearly three hours of vigorous and robust questioning by the Dail’s (Irish Parliament) All Party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) earlier today 19th January 2012.

The well prepared members of the Committee (all elected representatives) exposed once again the scandalous goings-on at the Society over the last number of years. PAC members looked shocked, exasperated and disgusted with many of the responses from the Irish Red Cross Secretary General, Donal Forde and the Chairman, David O’ Callaghan.

This Blog has written at length about the misgovernance and financial irregularities at the Irish Red Cross. It was of the view it could no longer be shocked by the Society’s cover ups and deceit. How wrong the Blog was.

Today in Ireland’s national parliament the Irish Red Cross told clear and blatant untruths to elected public representatives. In time and once the full transcript is available this Blog will document in detail every single one of those untruths and seek that those responsible are fully held to account for their actions.

This disgusting debacle must stop and these individuals must not be permitted any longer to make a mockery of the Irish public, of elected representatives, of genuine Irish Red Cross volunteers and staff and of our national parliament.

It is high time for the International Red Cross in Geneva (both ICRC and IFRC) to come off the sidelines and prevent any further damage to and deterioration of the credibility of the Red Cross in Ireland. The Red Cross emblem and everything it stands for is being trampled into the ground by individuals prepared to deceive and misrepresent at the highest levels. Geneva, its time to wake up and do your job: protect the Red Cross emblem before irreparable damage is done.

The 19th January 2012, a day of infamy for the Irish Red Cross.



RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) has carried the below news article on the Irish Red Cross performance:

Irish Red Cross did not disclose bank accounts

Updated: 12:42, Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Irish Red Cross, under questioning at The Public Accounts Committee, has said that one of the two signatories on a previously undisclosed bank account was Vice Chairman of the Society nationally.


The Irish Red Cross, under questioning at The Public Accounts Committee, has said that one of the two signatories on a previously undisclosed bank account, valued at €160,000, was Vice Chairman of the Society nationally

He still remains the Vice Chairman.

Representatives of the charitable organisation, have confirmed that when the Head of Finance was made aware of this account and 48 other undisclosed accounts (to the value of €200,000 in total), he did not disclose the accounts to the Board of the Society.

The sitting Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Kieran O'Donnell, said it seemed extraordinary that the Head of Finance did not disclose such accounts to the Board.

Eoghan Murphy, member of the Public Accounts Committe, questioned why someone would continue in position of governance in the Society for 27 years considering there are serious questions raised, particularly by the Minister of Defence, in relation to poor governance in the Irish Red Cross.

Deputy Murphy said this "flies in the face of good governance".

His assertion was challenged by Donal Forde, newly appointed Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross, claiming that the Society has completely overhauled its system of governance, and all the branches of the society will be audited for 2011.

He added that an investigation was carried out by the society and there was no malevolence found, and no misappropriation of money, but it was clear there was poor governance. He confirmed there was no disciplinary action taken.

Mr. David O'Callaghan, The Chairman of the Irish Red Cross, admitted "there was a mess", and there was bad governance. But he added this was a restricted account, no cent was moved or was missing.

He added that an investigation was put in train and changes have been made in relation to codes of conduct, auditing and governance in the Irish Red Cross.

29 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:17 PM

    If and this is a big IF, the vice chairman tony lawlor had no intention of doing something underhand with the 160,000 that he held in an undeclared bank account, can someone please tell me why he did not send it to Irish Cross head office so that it could be used for the victims of the Tsunami.
    Has anyone formally asked him this? I guess not as he was probably involved in drafting the questions for the "Internal" investigation into the matter.If this question had been asked a follow up question would had to have been "Considering at the time you had sat on the board for approximately 2 decades surely you should have known the procedures for handling such large sums of money, at the least you could have found out within the 3 years you failed to declare it,considering you were involved, at the time, in every aspect of the running of the society.
    By protecting tony lawlor, or should I say by tony lawlor as vice chairman and his cronies on the board, intimidating their subordinates into lying for him (with the exception of Mr. Wardick who was sacked for his integrity) , the Irish Red Cross name has had more damage done to it than if at the time a criminal investigation had been carried out and he had been found guilty as charged.
    When a new batch of managers (there is every 3-4 years,thank god)stands up today and protects this so called humanitarian you have to wonder how he gets away with it.

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  2. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Does anyone know who the other signatories on the resting bank account were?
    Were they questioned about the matter, were they asked what the reason was for depriving the people it was intended for?
    Can someone answer this as I have not read about anyone else being named in this scandal.

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  3. Anonymous2:25 PM

    The PAC committee raised questions about the engagement of the former head of AIB as Secretary General of the Red Cross, their response was at odds with previous statements made by the Red Cross that the appointment was carried out by an independent body. Interesting that one of those on this panel was named as a Mr Tom Horwell, was he not on the same panel that investigated Mr Wardicks sacking. This is all too interesting ! The Chairman said, that no money was moved from the Tsunami account. This is not true at all, money was taken out and put back in again, oh sorry another slip of the forked tongue.

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  4. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Thank you Irish Red Cross, as a Donor you have definitely made up my mind, not to ever give you a single cent again. Imagine that finance guy actually coming out with that rubbish he spewed out to the PAC. He personally called the donors of the 600k to ask where they wanted the money to go, what total rubbish.

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  5. Anonymous2:31 PM

    There is a full report in the redcross website which, I think, states who was interviewed for the investigation.

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  6. Anonymous2:34 PM

    Donal Forde should hang his head in shame after his disgraceful performance in Dail Eireann today. That performance will come back to haunt him. He will be held to account in time. Make no mistake about that. I have lost all respect for the man. This was a new low for the Irish Red Cross, as hard as it is to believe these people could sink any lower.

    The Chairman David O' Callaghan was more an observer but his interventions were painful and embarrassing. Apparently, according to O'Callaghan, there is a shortage of volunteers within the Irish Red Cross so because of that Tony Lawlor has to stay on the board for 21 years.

    As for the Irish Red Cross propaganda spokesperson...there is no pointing in even commenting on his waffling disjointed totally unconvincing performance.

    The look of complete disbelief, exasperation and sheer disgust on all the TD's faces throughout the 3 hours said it all.

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  7. Anonymous12:24 AM

    The Red Cross yesterday gave its critics the evidence they have been looking for, they had the neck to tell lies against two former Secretary Generals implictaiong them in the cover up of the moeny and also the former Chairperson of the Executive. No one was named, but if I was them I would be heading to my lawyers to insure that my good name was not bantered in such fashion !

    Donal Forde gave the same performance as he did in 2008 for AIB, he did not have a clue what he was talking then either. He referred yesterday to a report which the PAC evidently regarded as fundamentally flawed, a report where the Red Cross investigated itself and found itself innocent.

    The Chairman said without even flinching that in his tenure as SEcretary General of the Dept. of Defence, the Red Cross never came to his attention. Is he seriously suggesting that his representative never told him that the Red Cross was convicted in the Hign Court of intimidation and bullying. Is he serious that he missed the investigation program by RTE and the strike by staff. The man must have been sleeping then and now!

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  8. Anonymous2:02 AM

    There is an article in todays Examiner newspaper on the disgraceful performance by Irish Red Cross in the Dail yesterday Going into the Dail hearing people were looking for the resignations of the Irish red Cross Vice Chairman and Treasurer but after the Hearing we can add the Irish Red Cross Secretary General, Donal Forde and Chairman, David J'O'Callaghan to that list. Their performance was despicable and as the article says above lets hope they are eventually held accountable for what they said and the misinformation they put on public record.

    The link for the Examiner article (which names Tony (Anthony) Lawlor) is:

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/red-cross-admits-vice-chairman-was-signatory-on-undisclosed-bank-account-180840.html

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  9. Anonymous4:13 AM

    I suspect Donal Forde and David O' Callaghan will come to deeply regret their misleading, inaccurate and misrepresentative statements in the Dail yesterday. There is alot of very furious people out there as a result of what they said and who are very determined to expose these untruths.

    Irish Times article of 20th Jan 2012 link is:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0120/1224310517537.html

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  10. Anonymous4:43 AM

    Donal Forde's ridiculous explanations on the non inclusion of millions of Euros worth of properties in the Irish RC financial accounts were derisory. The best part was the 'Father Ted' type explanation that the reason for this was that a robbery had taken place and all the deeds of 18 properties were stolen!! Well why werent the properties included in the accounts before the deeds were supposedly stolen????

    And who steals the deeds of properties when they break into an office looking for money. Is there a Garda report outlining the stealing of all these property deeds? Was it an inside job??? What use are property deeds to a thief? And why did it take 20 years to get the properties included in the accounts...they are still not included but IRC say they will be soon??? What a bunch of jokers. The TD's were so totally disgusted with the answers given by the Irish RC.

    God the plot thickens and the Irish Red Cross once again ensures that the damaging crisis will continue for many many more months as each and every untruth they told in the Dail is dissected and challenged one by one.

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  11. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Very good article in today's (20th Jan) Daily Mail, page 24 with headline

    "Red Cross chief was signatory for 'forgotten' tsunami cash".

    It goes on to say "The Irish red Cross revealed yesterday that one of only two signatories to an account where €162,000 in tsunami donations was left resting for more than three years is the organisation's vice chairman. Tony Lawlor who has held that post for 21 years, was also the public relations officer for the Tipperary branch when the donations were received after the 2004 natural disaster. The fact that he was a signatory on the account came to light as the charity's bosses admitted there had been lapses in corporate governance....Mr. O' Callaghan told TDs: 'There was a mess-hands up-and it wasnt spotted'....Under questioning Mr. Forde (Secretary General IRC) said that when the head of finance was made aware of the Tipperary account and 48 other undisclosed accounts nationwide-to the value of €200,000 in total-he did not disclose it to the board....These (IRC accounts) also revealed the IRC paid €140,000 in legal fees to identify a whistleblower who raised concerns about how the charity was run. One of the charity's then managers, Noel Wardick, highlighted the scandal in an anonymous blog. He was later fired but his case is under consideration as an unfair dismissal"ENDS

    It should be noted that the attempt by Donal Forde to blame the non disclosure of the Tipperary account on the former Head of Finance is a despicable untruth. It can only be hoped that the former Head of Finance immediately issues legal proceedings against Donal Forde and the Irish Red Cross. Once the Tipperary account was discovered in 2008 a number of senior board members were informed (including the former Chairperson, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs) as was the then Secretary General (who is now a senior official in the Department of Justice). A decision was made that no further action would be taken and effectively the matter was covered up until it re-surfaced three years later in the media. Under sustained political and media pressure the Irish Red Cross caved in and initiated an internal and highly compromised review that unsurprisingly named and blamed no-one.

    In due course a very heavy price will be paid by those individuals who spoke untruths on behalf of the Irish Red Cross in the Dail on the 19th Jan.

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  12. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Someone broke in and stole the deeds, that's why we didn't know where all our properties were. This is the answer Donal Forde gave to the PAC on the inability for decades of the Red Cross to account to its auditors of the identity of properites owned by the Society. Forde is to supply the PAC with the list of properties, which IRC has failed to supply to its board for 20 years.

    Even if someone did steal the deeds, as Forde suggested, did they break into the Land Registry office and steal the documents there also. The Irish Red Cross have got so used to telling lies they cannot now figure out what is the truth.

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  13. Anonymous2:17 AM

    The comment above is correct that says a number of board members including the Chairman and the Secretary General were informed immediately after the Tipperary bank account was discovered in 2008. They did nothing about it. While the Head of Finance reported it to his boss the Secretary General he was part of the cover up in that once it was decided nothing further was to be done there is no evidence that he objected to this. Still though Donal Forde's attempt to scapegoat him in the Dail is a disgrace. He knows who he is and if I were him I would take legal action straight away.

    From 2008 the Tipperary bank account was an open secret. Most staff knew about it and were disgusted that no action was taken against the Vice Chairman. Other board members were likely to have become aware of it as well during this time but chose to do their usual nothing.

    Great to see the media report widely on this whole sorry shameful Dail performance. In addition to RTE news, RTE's Oireacthas Report, Irish Times, The Examiner, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror there was also reports in Sligo Today, East Coast FM and Kildare's Kfm. Probably alot more as well. All talked about IRC's misgovernance and financial mismanagement.

    Given the untruths told in the Dail I'd say this is only the start of it.

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  14. Anonymous11:48 AM

    If I was O Sullivan the previous Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross I would most certainly be getting a good lawyer, they hung him and others out to dry at the PAC. They even had the balls to suggest that a well respected member of the legal profession, resigned for other reasons than the fact that Lawlor and his buddies were hiding money. Yippie ! They will hear lots about those comments I am sure.

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  15. Anonymous11:53 AM

    I look forward to the transcript of the hearing of the Red Cross at the PAC, it would appear that Mr Forde did not dissappoint his current employers with his consistent ability to twist the truth and tell untruths. He did the same for AIB at the PAC back in 2008 when he assured the PAC that all was fine in AIB. Lets hope Irish RC doesnt suffer the same fate 12 months on like AIB did. I would like to hear from even one single Donor who was a party to the 600k the Red Cross took from the Haiti Appeal. Honestly Ronan did you really think that anyone would believe the hogwash you came out with? The Red Cross say they lost the deeds of the properties 17 of them, 28 years ago and it is for this reason that they have no details in their accounts ! This is absolutley at odds with records which are available to suggest the contrary. Coopers and Lybrand were concerned about the property portfolio before BDO took over, BDO have expressed concerns about the property portfolio for eleven years, and Donal Forde tried to cover this up by saying we had a burglary. Of course he didn't say that burglary was three dacades ago. They are really taking the mick! After this performance the Red Cross have showed they cannot be trusted with public money especially when the Chairman said the reason we cannot get rid of Lawlor is that we cannot get anyone to volunteer, I wonder why?

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  16. Anonymous12:45 PM

    So Donal Forde admitted in the Dail that in relation to secret bank accounts etc etc that "This was more in the space of bad administration, bad governance, bad controls".

    Lets be clear here, Forde has admitted there was 'bad administration, bad governance, bad controls'.

    Can someone please explain to me why it is then that when Noel Wardick said exactly the same he was fired??? It will be some public hearing when Noel's case comes before the Employment Appeals Tribunal and we have to listen to more ridiculous excuses from Forde and Co as to why Noel was fired when he told the truth.

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  17. Anonymous12:11 PM

    Mr Wardick is not an exception when it comes to disposing of anyone who challenges the rule of the elite members. The Chairman cleared the air on that one at the PAC, when he stated clearly that Tony Lawlor can do what ever he wishes when he wishes, and the Red Cross will reward him with a continued role in the management of the Red Cross. Lawlor was responsible for the sacking of Louis White and not a single word on the compensation they had to pay out with that fool hardy exercise. Mr White walked away head held high. Theere was also the sacking of James Walsh as a member again, Lawlor and his buddies cost the Red Cross over 100k in compensation.

    We must not overlook the tens perhaps hundreds of thousands paid out to ex. Secretary Generals. No one knows how much, as they all had to sign confidentiality contracts to get their compo.

    How can someone hide giving out compensation in the books, another question amongst many.

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  18. Anonymous2:44 PM

    The International Federation of the Red Cross / Red Crescent (IFRC) are in a postion to confirm how much IRC money was processed for the Haiti and tsunami appeals. Its about time we had some double entry bookeeping here.
    If the IFRC are interested in transparency and accountability, they will be able to provide these funding details easily. Their silence on this matter is deafening and its time they now came clean with the Irish people who have supported the Red Cross on the basis of the credibility which the Movement has internationally.
    There is no longer any confidence in the IRC to tell the truth and the silence of the IFRC demonstrates that there is something to hide - otherwise they would have published or acknowledged the monies received from IRC so that the discrepincies could be cleared up.
    If the IFRC do not explain to the Irish people how much they received from the IRC and when the received the money then we will know that they also are unwilling to be transparent and accountable.

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  19. Anonymous1:16 AM

    What's interesting about the Public Accounts Hearing is that not one Fianna Fail TD asked a question, not one question. In fact the Fianna Fail TDs were not present for the questioning of the Irish Red Cross.

    Maybe now people will believe that the Irish Red Cross is fundamentally a branch of Fianna Fail and has therefore been protected from investigation for decades. Its not a coincidence that now that Fianna Fail have been obliterated and FG/Labour in Government that the Irish Red Cross is finally under sustained investigation.

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  20. Anonymous1:34 AM

    I see the Dail Public Accounts Committee has published a letter that Noel Wardick wrote to Irish Red Cross Chairman, David O' Callaghan dated 2nd January 2012. Well said by Wardick! Link has been put into the above article by blogger. Link is:

    http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/pac/correspondence/2012-meeting241901/%5BPAC-R-237%5DCorrespondence-3.7.pdf

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  21. Anonymous12:50 PM

    The official transcript of the Public Accounts Committee hearing is now on line at the following link:

    http://debates.oireachtas.ie/ACC/2012/01/19/00004.asp

    For those familiar with the actual facts of the Irish RC reading the evidence and statements made by the Irish Red Cross will make you rage with anger and sick with disgust

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  22. Anonymous12:56 PM

    The robbery of the deeds of Irish Red CRoss properties referred to by Donal Forde to explain the malpractice of not recording properties in the Irish Red Cross financial statements took place in 1984!! Yes 1984. And Donal Forde uses this as an excuse for not including the properties in the accounts for the next 28 years!! And as the comment above says why werent the properties included in the accounts before the deeds were stolen. These people make me sick, trying to make fools of the Dail and its TD's. Forde conveniently neglected to mention the date and year of the robbery!! If he did mention it he would have looked a fool and the TD's would have laughed at him.

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  23. Anonymous1:40 AM

    The commentor above is correct, I have read the transcript. I am livid. How do these guys get away with such fabrications and misrepresentations of fact? I am so disappointed in Forde and O' Callaghan. I had hope they would change the place, now they are as bad as the others. Lawlor and co have them where they want as Forde and O' Callaghan are now complicit in the cover up and deceit. It has all been so predictable, a mirror image of what happens everytime a secgen gets fired or leaves and a new one comes on board. Forde has fallen into the trap hook line and sinker. He is in big trouble now and he will watch on as the tide eventually turns on him at Executive Committee. Numerous people have lost all professional respect for him and O'Callaghan. Once again played beautifully by the master of them all Mr. Lawlor. He has forced O' Callaghan to publicly go on record and defend him and Lawlor has sucked them all into his lair. O' Callaghan in fact praised Lawlor, something that for me is a red line in the sand. O' Callaghan has to go at the end of his term in April. He needs to go with his buddy Tony Lawlor. This was all predicted and Forde was advised but he ignored it, and time will tell, to his cost

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  24. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Hopefully O' Callaghan will be replaced by Minister Alan Shatter in April or May. He was a Fianna Fail government appointment anyway and in order to clean up the Irish Red Cross one of the things that is required is a clean break with Fianna Fail. Of course if the Irish Red Cross was even remotely well functioning Tony Lawlor would be forced to step down immediately as would Ted Noonan, the Treasurer. The Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, as good as implored Irish Red Cross to address the Tony Lawlor issue. He referred to it as 'the distraction' which will never go away. And as for Donal Forde, well I am genuinely sad to say this but his performance in the Dail is a resignable offence. No ifs or buts, he must go. His credibility is shot to pieces. Its all such a bloody mess, its so depressing. Why oh why does the Central Council remain silent and terrified to speak up??

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  25. Anonymous8:12 AM

    By the way who was the woman in black sitting behind Forde and O' Callaghan in the Dail who Forde kept turning around to asking questions? What is her role in all this? And why did Forde have to keep consulting with her? Does she know where the skeletons are hidden I wonder or is she some new consultant they have hired? Was she around during the Tipperary bank account discovery? Was she around during the Haiti money misallocation? Anyone know who she is or what her role is?

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  26. Anonymous6:39 AM

    Forde lost his self respect when he went in and gave evidence on behalf of his former employer AIB in 2008. The PAC brought up the topic of his engagement by the Red Cross and did not get a satisfactory answer as to how he got the job, given the fact that he has zero experience of an NGO or the Red Cross. What about the experience of the other candidates who were they? and what was their background? I have no doubts if that little gem was known another scandal would unfold. Good luck Donal you’re lucky you have a good pension to fall back on. But you have no backbone if you are willing to tell untruths at the PAC for your handlers on the Executive. O Callaghan’s sickening oration on how wonderful Lawlor is, was just the pits. Almost like the shedding of tears at the loss of the great leader of North Korea.

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  27. Anonymous6:42 AM

    What kind of messed up organisation is it that it can find a Secretary General to appoint who will claim to know all the sordid details of the mismanagement of IRC and to become the mouthpiece for such disgrace? Will IRC now claim to have satisfied the PAC with their answers? Do they realise how they are on a course to destruction of the Red Cross in this country because of their dishonest and disingenuous cover-ups? Do they realise that poor and often struggling Red Cross National Societies in Asia, Africa and the rest of the world operate with the minimum standards admitted as lacking in IRC? How can the Irish Red Cross bring such shame to the Red Cross Movement? How can Forde assure us that there was no misappropriation when he wasnt there? Why didnt he mention the two withdrawals from the Tipp tsunami account but which were blamed on a mistake by the bank!!!! How can he say this when the safeguards were not in place ? and when those at the centre of this mess are still in postions of power in IRC? National Societies who previously got into disrepute such as Ghana and Liberia were allowed to collapse and new better organisations were re-established. Its time for this to happen in Ireland because clearly those in charge of Irish Red Cross are not to be trusted.

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  28. Anonymous1:29 AM

    All this seems such a distraction from what the Red Cross should really be doing. The sum involved in the Tipperary "Scandal" are irrelevant as the money was never misappropriated or spent incorrectly. The RC have promised controls to make sure that doesnt happen again, and i believe those are in place. They wont want an embarrassing repeat. This is a storm in a teacup. and the "scandal" is being used as a football for vested interest inside and outside the organisation. I watched the exchange in the Public accounts committee and I think Forde aquitted himself well. I would like to see anyone posting here do better.

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  29. Anonymous1:50 AM

    I have only recently discovered how abscurely secretative the Irish Red Cross is. They don't publish who their members are. If you want to contact anyone, you have to go through their Head Office as they don't publish contact details on their web site. Few of their Governing body the Central Council know who the other members are, as they are not supplied with this information. The Red Cross is definitely unique and the more I read on this Blog the more interesting this secretive, closed, non transparent organisation becomes. What kind of organisation inhibits contact? They say they have 5000 members, but no one knows who they are. I remember another organisation whose structure was also based on the cell system and contact between members kept to an absolute minimim.

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