Wednesday, May 16, 2012's concluding article

On Tuesday 29th December 2009 the GovernanceReformAtIrishRedCross blog was created and the first article written. Today, 16th May 2012, this article will be its last.

Since that first article was published 870 days have passed. The Blog has straddled four calendar years. 110 articles have been written. 1,232 comments have been posted. The Blog has been viewed 102,697 times (at time of writing), an average of 118 views a day every day for two and a half years. The Blog’s 110 articles will remain in existence for perpetuity.

On the 8th May 2012 the Minister for Justice and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, appointed two external people to the Central Council (General Assembly) of the Irish Red Cross for a three year term. The credentials, expertise and knowledge of both are impressive. Mr. Máirtín O Fainín is a former career Ambassador (Australia, Argentina, Uganda, Zambia amongst others) with the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is currently a member of the Advisory Committee of the Combined Services Third World Fund.  Ms. Mary Flaherty, a former Fine Gael TD from Dublin and Minister for State at the Department of Social Welfare during the 1980s is currently Chief Executive of the CARI Foundation. During her political career Ms. Flaherty was also Fine Gael spokesperson on Development Affairs and worked closely with European colleagues to keep Africa high on the EU’s political agenda. It is not yet clear whether Mr. Fainín and/or Ms. Flaherty intend to put themselves forward for the Society's Executive Committee (Board of Directors).

The upcoming appointments to the positions of Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, new Executive Committee (Board of Directors), and five additional external nominees (3 to Central Council and 2 to the Executive Committee) will be finalised on 26th May at the upcoming Central Council/General Assembly meeting. The new National Director of Units position has been awarded to Tony Lawlor, current National Vice Chairman.

Readers may be wondering why this is the last Blog article. After five years (2005-2010) working for the Irish Red Cross as Head of the International Department and nearly thirty months (December 2009-May 2012) writing the Blog now is an appropriate time to pass the baton. I have also concluded a settlement with the Irish Red Cross concerning my dismissal.

As this is the last Blog article it is important to note that there are a number of people who have assisted me throughout the last few years. I will not name them all here but they know who they are. At many difficult junctures they provided me with the strength and fortitude to keep going.

On a final note I owe a great depth of gratitude to my inspirational parents, brothers and sisters, my girlfriend, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, extended family members and friends for their unflinching support and encouragement. They have, without any shadow of a doubt, been my backbone and the mainstay of my determination to continue. I thank them all most sincerely and from the bottom of my heart.

Noel Wardick

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning-Ivy B Priest


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Irish Red Cross at a crossroads

The month of May 2012 presents the Irish Red Cross with two very different roads, the consequences of each hugely significant. The decision on which road to take will be before the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross at its meeting at the end of May (rumoured to be 26th). One decision will perpetuate the endless crisis at the Society and the other will open up the way to a brighter and scandal free future.

For the first time in its 73 year history the Irish Red Cross will get to choose its own Chairperson. Since 1939 the Irish Government has previously had the honours.  The Society must therefore choose wisely and carefully. The closed, secretive and non transparent process to date does not bode well. One can only hope the internal Nominations Committee, tasked with identifying a number of suitable candidates, is busy at work. The concern is that the decision has already been made and the Fianna Fail appointed incumbent, David O’ Callaghan, will be given a three year extension.

In addition to electing a new Chairperson the Central Council will appoint the Honorary Vice Chairman, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer as well as the remainder of the Executive Committee (now with the new grand title of Board of Directors). The current Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary are Fianna Fail government nominees and their terms of office expired on April 30th. They will unlikely be re-appointed by a Fine Gael/Labour Coalition. They can, however, be elected onto Central Council via their respective Red Cross Areas and presumably they will explore this option.

The current Vice Chairman has served in the role for 21 years and in doing so has breached all good corporate governance practice. Given the many calls for his resignation he may well be forced to finally step down but as some have posted on the blog the crumbs of consolation may be his appointment as National Director of Units. No matter how its dressed up though the National Director of Units will never carry the same standing, stature, prestige, honour or seniority as the Vice Chairman role.

If the Central Council wishes to go backwards and maintain the damaging status quo they will re-elect the ‘old reliables’. This will satisfy a number of insatiable egos but do nothing for the future of the Irish Red Cross. It is well past time for passing the baton on to the next generation of Irish Red Cross leaders. Of course if the current batch refuses to go they will be forced, within time, to step down anyway for three full years thanks to the newly passed Irish Red Cross Constitution. Now that its law even the old Ruling Elite will not be able to avoid at least three years in the wilderness.

To secure the future of the Irish Red Cross the Society needs in place by the end of May a new Chairperson, a new Vice Chairperson, a new Secretary, a new Treasurer and a number of new persons elected to the Executive Committee. The Nominations Committee can also appoint three external people to the Central Council and the new Chairperson can appoint two external people directly to the Executive Committee. The selection of these five people will be absolutely critical as will the four government nominees chosen by Minister Alan Shatter. The road to modernity, competence, professionalism, openness, transparency and accountability is now wide open and waiting for the Irish Red Cross to drive down it. It’s up to members of Central Council whether they take it or instead reverse back down the well travelled Irish Red Cross road of shame, incompetence, negligence, misuse of resources, poor governance and financial irregularities.

On a separate matter:

Under the new Irish Red Cross Constitution the number of Central Council representatives an Area is entitled to is determined by the size of its Area membership. As such great care needs to be taken in how membership numbers are calculated and recorded. The integrity of the Society will be forever compromised if membership lists and numbers are ever in any shape or form manipulated or tampered with. The Irish Red Cross should consider having random and regular independent audits of membership lists to guarantee their bone fides.

The Blog has received feedback that certain Areas have inflated their membership numbers over and above what they really are. The Blog has been informed that at least one Area, in order to increase its membership, approached the Defibrillator Groups in its Area which it previously trained and advised these groups that if the Group made a donation to the Irish Red Cross every member of the Group would be made a member of the Irish Red Cross. Individual membership fees were not paid nor requested. As a result of this increased ‘membership’ it is reported the Area is now entitled to an increase in number of Central Council representatives. The Blog has no confirmation that this has happened apart from a verbal report from a reliable source but nevertheless feels it important to bring it to the attention of readers.

The Irish Times of Tuesday 8th May 2012 carries a full page (3 articles) on the Government’s upcoming Whistleblowing legislation. One of the articles has a picture of Noel Wardick, former Head of International at the Irish Red Cross, and is titled Cost of Blowing the Whistle-The case of Noel Wardick.

At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past-Maurice Maeterlink