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Red Cross blogger's position is 'untenable'

The Irish Red Cross (IRC) whistleblower who revealed his identity on an online blog last week is unlikely to continue working for the charity.

Despite his repeated statements that he can't intervene, the International Red Cross has laid responsibility for dealing with the crisis at Defence Minister Tony Killeen's door.

The charity, that posted a deficit of €700,000 in 2009, is under pressure to defend the spending of €320,000 in consultancy fees for the current acting secretary general, Declan O'Sullivan, before he took over as boss.

Noel Wardick, the IRC's head of international development, has been suspended on full pay since August, when bosses became aware that he was the author of an anonymous blog highlighting the crises at the society.

He is the subject of an internal investigation to decide whether his actions amount to gross misconduct, but even if he is found not guilty, many connected with the case say his position is now "untenable".

It has also emerged that Mr Wardick was threatened with redundancy weeks before he was identified as the author of the blog, as part of a restructuring of the international division.

Over several months, Mr Wardick's blog highlighted what he described as a "toxic culture" within the IRC, financial mismanagement and detailed the marginalisation of those who criticised how the society was being run.

The opposition this weekend have called for an independent investigation into the goings on at the IRC.

"No longer will I fear. No longer will I deny who I am," he wrote when he revealed his identity on the blog last Thursday.

The High Court granted the society leave to identify the blogger, and service provider UPC informed bosses that Mr Wardick was responsible.

It has also emerged that the IRC won a tender contract worth more than €1m to provide ambulance services for the Corrib Gas line project in 2007, but was taken to court by another ambulance provider, Blackrock, on the grounds of a "loss of business".

"In 2007 Blackrock Ambulance, a private ambulance company initiated proceedings against the Irish Red Cross and various other parties and sought compensation for loss of business. This issue was resolved in a court hearing with an agreed settlement being made in respect of a share of legal costs," an IRC spokesman said.

Mr Killeen and former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea have been criticised for not appointing a voluntary chairman to the organisation.

Fine Gael's Jimmy Deenihan said: "The failure of successive Ministers for Defence, in particular former Minister O'Dea, to address the appalling lack of governance in the Irish Red Cross amounts to nothing less than political negligence."

The IRC was criticised this month after it emerged that €162,000 in donations for the Asian Tsunami languished in a Tipperary account for more than three years. The branch involved was run by IRC vice chairman Tony Lawlor.

It was also criticised after it only distributed €1.4m in donations for the victims of last winter's Irish floods.

Sunday Independent