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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Killeen under fire for delay on Red Cross boss


Defence Minister Tony Killeen is under fire over his failure to appoint a new boss to the Irish Red Cross (IRC) for more than six months, despite extreme governance difficulties, financial irregularities and a "toxic culture" at the organisation.

The IRC has been blighted by controversy for months following reports in this newspaper of deep internal wrangling over governance and low staff morale. Despite the ongoing controversy, Defence Minister Tony Killeen, who under legislation is responsible for the appointment, will not appoint a new boss (who will be paid €160,000 a year) until next month, his department has confirmed, because he wants to take time to find the "right person".

The Red Cross has been in turmoil and the resignation of former Foreign Minister David Andrews last year brought unwelcome attention to how it was being run.

According to Mr Killeen's spokeswoman, the minister "has not made a final decision on the chair of the Red Cross".

She said: "Given the recent difficulties encountered by the Red Cross and the need to move forward. . . he wants to ensure that he gets the right person for the job.

"He is currently considering a few candidates and hopes to be in a position to bring a name to Government in the near future, probably in September."

A spokesman for the society, which has been run on an acting basis by Declan O'Sullivan, said that advertisements for a new secretary general would be placed next month.

It has been a torrid year for the IRC. In March, this newspaper reported that more than €1.4m of donations for flood victims in Ireland had not yet been distributed. Then last month, it emerged that €162,000 of donations to victims of the Asian Tsunami had lain idle in a Tipperary account for more than three years because of an "administrative error".

The IRC is also trying to force Google to unmask an anonymous blogger, which it says is allegedly posting contentious material about the high-profile charity.

The IRC was given permission to pursue Google in California in a legal action which could have huge implications for the freedom to post material on the web.

It said: "The Irish Red Cross finds itself in a situation where confidential information, as well as inaccurate and damaging comment and views on this blog, has had a serious impact on staff morale, on fundraising and also on the day-to-day running of the organisation."

According to the opposition, the governance and accounting issues at the Irish Red Cross since 2007 have still not been addressed by the Government.

Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan told the House that he had repeatedly taken issue with the previous Defence Minister, Willie O'Dea, who told the House in the past that the Government was precluded from getting involved in such issues.

Labour's Brian O'Shea said the Government needed to take the organisation by the scruff of the neck.

Sunday Independent

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