Shake-up at top of Red Cross as chief steps down

SIGNIFICANT changes to management of the Irish Red Cross Society have been proposed to quell concerns about its operation.

Today former Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews is retiring as chairman of the society to “lead by example” before the changes take effect.

He was only re-appointed to the role eight months ago.

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea yesterday wished him well and commended him for his efforts.

At the same time a briefing on reform proposals has been made to the department.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the concerns which created controversy during the summer are to be addressed.

A review group chaired by Professor Roger Downer found there was need for significant changes to who directors of the society were answerable to.

His working group report found:

* Directors would be allowed serve for a maximum of six years.

* The society’s central council would be replaced by an elected general assembly.

* The chairman would be elected by the general assembly.

The briefing document, prepared by the Department of Defence, said the principal reason for Mr Andrews’ resignation was the desire to lead by example.

It also showed the society was suffering financially.

Its accounts for the year ending September 30, 2009, showed it had a domestic deficit of €650,000 and fundraising in the current climate had been difficult.

The full internal review was completed at the end of November and will be delivered to Mr O’Dea in the near future.

In a statement Mr O’Dea thanked Mr Andrews for his work.

“David Andrews has been first and foremost a dedicated public servant. The range and level of experience Mr Andrews has brought to his role with the Irish Red Cross is exceptional.

“The society benefited enormously from having someone so highly regarded and popular both nationally and internationally as Mr Andrews,” he said.

However, worries regarding the society are not new.

The FOI documents revealed the minister was sent an anonymous letter in relation to the governance issues on October 13, 2008.

And on April 2, 2009, central council member Jenny Bulbulia wrote to Mr O’Dea resigning and outlining her concerns that board members did not share her desire to improve the society.

“Attempts to promote and improve the manner in which the society was run from a governance perspective were frustrated by these individuals,” Ms Bulbulia said.

Mr O’Dea passed on her complaints to the board, thanked her for her work but said he could not interfere with the day-to-day running of the society.

Seven weeks later he re-appointed Mr Andrews as its chairman.

Three days later the department wrote to John Roycroft, its secretary general, and said Ms Bulbulia had “the welfare and reputation” of the organisation at heart.


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