Thursday 17 August 2017

Red Cross hasn't given a cent to flood victims yet

Mounting concerns over leadership vacuum within the crisis-ridden charity as €1.4m that was donated by public remains untouched

Daniel McConnell Chief reporter

THE Irish Red Cross has yet to distribute a single cent of more than €1.4m donated by the Irish public to help those affected by the floods before Christmas, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The revelation is another blow to the crisis-ridden charity, whose indebted accounts were the subject of Dail debates last week.

The Labour Party last night called on Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who is now the de facto Minister for Defence, to make sorting out the Red Cross a major priority.

The delay in the distribution of donations to those affected by the floods, particularly those who were without flood insurance, has been strongly criticised.

According to a spokeswoman for the society, the allocations of funds will only happen in the next week or so.

"The Irish Red Cross is just completing the assessment of all applications received by February 5," she said.

"We expect to allocate the funds within the next week or so. A small amount was allocated before Christmas, but we had to wait until all applications had been received in order to assess the amounts available to each applicant."

She also said that a small amount of the money was allocated for distribution before Christmas but this had yet to be given out.

There are also growing concerns of a vacuum at the top of the organisation, following the stepping down of chairman David Andrews.

The society is being run by its acting secretary-general, Declan O'Sullivan, who previously worked in a consultancy role with the Red Cross.

The Department of Defence said last night that the Government had not yet put forward a name to the President to replace David Andrews, who retired from the position of chairman. In the interim, the vice-chair acts in lieu of the chairman.

In his final report to central council as chairman, which has been seen by the Sunday Independent, Mr Andrews warned of negative media coverage and said such revelations were very damaging.

He said: "What we can control are any internal issues which give rise to allegations of various sorts.

"We must demonstrate to all that we are determined to make the necessary changes and address any adverse perceptions held. A failure to do so will be very damaging to the Irish Red Cross."

There is mounting disquiet within the society over the delay in appointing a new permanent head of the organisation, as well as growing concerns over staff morale and working conditions.

Last Thursday in the Dail, Labour's Brian O'Shea called on Mr Cowen to sort out the Irish Red Cross.

He said that up to September last year, it had a deficit of more than €650,000 on its domestic books.

Despite this, the Red Cross confirmed that it had spent more than €280,000 since 2007 on a "range of consultancy services providing the organisation with skills and expertise necessary to deliver services at home and abroad".

However, despite being asked, it said a breakdown of these fees was not available.

It has also emerged that staff wrote to Mr Andrews in 2007, expressing concern at the high spend on external consultants. They also expressed concerns at the process used for the appointment of such consultants.

A temporary working group on governance, chaired by Roger Downer, former president of the University of Limerick, has published its report on reforming the Red Cross.

It recommended that the new head of the organisation should be referred to as 'patron' and should be the President of Ireland.

The existing central council should also be replaced by a general assembly, which would have to approve all major decisions and would elect a 12-member board.

Sunday Independent

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