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


  1. Anonymous8:40 AM

    Today, May 8th, is World Red Cross Day. And how is the Irish Red Cross covered in the media on this important day? With another reminder of its financial irregularities and its sacking of someone who told the truth (Irish Times, page 4). Well done Irish Red Cross, the endless disgrace continues.

  2. Anonymous9:33 AM

    Nice picture of you noel in the Irish Times, you could almost be mistaken for a movie star :).

  3. Anonymous10:01 AM

    Today the Government approved its four nominees for the Irish Red Cross Central Council (now called the General Assembly).

    Unfortunately two of them are already Irish Red Cross insiders and so little can be expected from them given they have been around for a long time already. But lets look at the glass half full. The other two nominees are excellent and definitely represent an injection of new blood.

    The key is for these two individuals to get elected onto the Executive Committee where they can implement and effect change. If they are left languishing on the Central Council their talents and influence will be minimal. The Governments press release is below in two parts (2 separate comments).

    Government Press Release Part 1:

    The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence announces the approval by Government of four nominees to the General Assembly of the Irish Red Cross Society.

    8 May 2012
    The Minister for Justice Equality & Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD, announces the approval by Government of the following four nominees to the General Assembly of the Red Cross, who will serve for a three year term, : Mr. Máirtín O’Fainín, Ms. Mary Flaherty, Mr. Darren Ryan and Mr. Cathal Duffy.

    Mr. Máirtín O’Fainín, who is a native of Co. Waterford, had a long and distinguished career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before his retirement last year. He had served most recently as Irish Ambassador to Australia and before that as Ambassador to Argentina. Previously he had also served as Head of Mission in Uganda which was also accredited to Rwanda, and in a number of postings around the world including Zambia, Poland and USA. Mr. O’Fainín is currently a member of the Advisory Committee of the Combined Services Third World Fund.

    Ms. Mary Flaherty is a former Fine Gael TD from Dublin who on her first day in the Dáil in 1981 was appointed by the then Taoiseach, the late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, asMinister of State at the Department of Social Welfare. She was also Fine Gael spokesperson on Development Affairs for a number of years during the 1980’s and over a long number of years she was deeply involved with AWEPA - the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa – which works in partnership with African parliaments to strengthen democracy in Africa and to keep Africa high on the political agenda in Europe. Ms. Flaherty served the constituency of Dublin North West as TD for 16 years and continued to serve as a member of Dublin City Council until her retirement from politics in 1999. Ms. Flaherty is currently the Chief Executive of The CARI Foundation which is a registered charity that provides a professional, child centred therapy and counselling service to children, families, and groups who have been affected by child sexual abuse. Prior to entering politics, Ms. Flaherty was a secondary school teacher.

  4. Anonymous10:03 AM

    Government Press Release Part 2 re government nominees to Central Council:

    Mr. Darren Ryan is the current Mayor of Clonmel and is also a Labour Party Councillor on South Tipperary County Council. He has been heavily involved in the Irish Red Cross both at local and national level for many years and is currently the Chairperson of Irish Red Cross Youth, which has responsibility for supporting members under 25 years of age. Mr. Ryan works in a Day Activation Centre for adults with intellectual disabilities, run by the Brothers of Charity and is a well known for his community work with many local voluntary groups. He was first elected to Clonmel Borough Council in 2004 and to South Tipperary County Council in 2007 and is currently the leader of the Labour Party on both Councils.

    One of the Government’s nominees has traditionally been a senior civil servant from the Department of Defence. As well as being the Department responsible for sponsoring Red Cross legislation, the Department also pays an annual Grant in Aid to the Society which in 2012 amounts to €869,000. The outgoing nominee is Mr. Cathal Duffy, Principal Officer in the Department of Defence and the Government has decided to re-appoint Mr. Duffy. As well as serving in the Department of Defence, Mr. Duffy who is a native of Co. Carlow has previously worked in the Department of Agriculture and in the Office of the Information Commissioner.

    Speaking after today’s Cabinet meeting, Minister Shatter stated that: “Following the recent changes made by the Government to the Red Cross legislation, the nomination of these four high calibre individuals to the General Assembly of the Irish Red Cross represents a further important step taken by this Government to restoring the full confidence of the public in the Irish Red Cross Society. The steps that have been taken by this Government are the most wide ranging and fundamental set of changes to have occurred in the long history of the Society and provide for corporate governance arrangements that now bring the Society into the 21st century. These appointments will copper-fasten the strong impetus for change that now exists within the Society itself and whilst a lot of important measures have been taken over the past year, particularly in relation to re-structuring its corporate governance, I would urge the Society to maintain the momentum and to ensure that the value that these nominations can bring to the Society is fully utilised.” The Minister also referred to the Programme for Government commitment which provides for the initiation of a detailed legal review of the basis, structures and governance of the Red Cross in Ireland to improve its functioning in the light of changing circumstances. The Minister stated that: “The Department of Defence has recently commenced work on this review and I anticipate that, at its conclusion, this review will lead to the introduction of a new Red Cross Act.”


    Pursuant to the Red Cross Act 1938, the Society was established by the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939 as an independent charitable body corporate. Up until recently that Order had undergone piecemeal changes only since 1939. One of the changes made as a consequence of the Government’s recent decision on 17 April 2012 to amend the 1939 Order is that Government may nominate up to 10% of the membership of the Society’s General Assembly. In accordance with the Rules of the Society, membership of the General Assembly is for a three year term. On the basis of the Society’s current overall membership, which in turn dictates the size of its General Assembly, the maximum number of Government nominees is four.

  5. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Those two external government nominees, Mary Flaherty (ex minister) and Máirtin ó Fáinin (ex Ambassador) have very impressive CVs and their appointment is great news for Irish Red Cross.

    Every effort must be made to get them elected onto the Executive Committee at the CC meeting on 26th May. We can be sure of one thing however and that is that certain people will be making every effort to ensure these two people do not get elected to the Executive Committee. Such skills, talents and above all else the independence that Flaherty and ó Fainin have are characteristics frowned upon by the ruling elite. Their appointment is very good news for the Irish Red Cross International Department and hopefully they will act as a counter balance to the total obsession with first aid and ambulances.