Monday 23 October 2017

Mass exodus from Red Cross board

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

At least six members to step down following damning report by Dail committee

At least six members of the board of the Irish Red Cross are to leave their posts this month following the publication of a damning report last Thursday by the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the embattled society.

Among those leaving key posts are vice-chairman Tony Lawlor, who has held the position for 21 years, and Ted Noonan, the treasurer, who has been there for 13 years.

Mr Lawlor's intended departure follows severe criticism in the Dail of his length of service on the Irish Red Cross (IRC) board and calls from Justice Minister Alan Shatter last year to the IRC opposing overly long stints on the board.

Mr Lawlor is expected to take up another voluntary role within the IRC following a meeting on May 26.

At that meeting the society, which receives more than €800,000 in taxpayers' money each year, is to elect its new board, and the clearout of senior long-standing members is seen by many as the closing of the most difficult period in the society's history.

Internal election documents from the IRC assembly -- sent to members ahead of the key meeting -- confirm that at least six changes to the board will happen, but potentially up to eight new faces could be seen.

Society insiders are said to be shocked but happy that the IRC is to get such a large injection of new blood at the top of its organisation, and are hoping many of the negative criticisms made of the IRC will never again be repeated.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, IRC general secretary Donal Forde said: "In my 15 months we have tried to correct many of the matters that were identified to be wrong with the IRC, and have put in place robust structures to ensure proper accountability. It is time we put all of this behind us."

"With respect to the recommendations that have been made, those that relate to the Irish Red Cross Society have already been implemented," the IRC said.

It was in Mr Lawlor's district of Tipperary that €165,000 in undisclosed donations for victims of the Asian tsunami in 2005 was discovered on foot of a secret audit conducted by the IRC in 2008, but it was not made known to the then board until 2009.

No blame was ever attached to Mr Lawlor over the incident, but PAC chairman John McGuinness has said it was "entirely wrong" that funding collected in 2005 for the tsunami in south-east Asia remained in a branch account of the Red Cross in Tipperary until it was discovered in 2008.

"Even then, and this shows the disarray at the Red Cross, it was treated as an administrative issue and not brought to the board of the Red Cross until late in 2009," he said.

"We have called for a regular audit of all branches so the Red Cross is aware of the monies held in its name."

Mr McGuinness said the committee had noted the IRC was controlled by a small group of people who controlled the board for a number of years.

The PAC also noted that IRC whistleblower Noel Wardick's communications to them were "central" to its reaching its damning findings. Mr Wardick, who was sacked for gross misconduct after he revealed himself as a whistleblower, recently settled an Employment Appeals Tribunal action.

Sunday Independent

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