Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Irish Red Cross
Question 57: To ask the Minister for Defence the contacts he has had with the Officers of the Irish Red Cross since he has taken office in pursuit of his plans to initiate a detailed legal review of the structures and governance of the Irish Red Cross; if he or his officials have had discussions with the International Red Cross regarding these matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17266/11]
The Programme for Government provides for the initiation of a detailed legal review of the basis, structures and governance of the Red Cross in Ireland to improve its functioning in the light of changing circumstances. Proposals for reform of the governance of the Irish Red Cross Society initially arose from a resolution that was passed in November 2007 by the Council of Delegates of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which urged all National Societies to examine and update their Statutes - the rules of the National Societies - and related legal texts by 2010. I am aware that a Working Group to propose changes in the governance of the Society was established by the Irish Red Cross in 2008. The Chairman of the Working Group presented the findings, which included changes recommended by the International Federation, to the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross Society at a meeting held in November 2009. The Working Group's report was then submitted to the Department of Defence early last year.
Following the Department's review of these proposals and the related legislation, a draft Order that would amend the Irish Red Cross Order 1939 was submitted to the Office of the Attorney General. The 1939 Order sets out the basis upon which the Society is governed and was made pursuant to the Red Cross Act 1938.
Discussions with the Office of the Attorney General on the extent of changes that can be made to the 1939 Order are continuing. Following receipt of legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General, I will review the legislative changes that are proposed and consider bringing them to Government for approval. Whatever changes are made to the 1939 Order, a comprehensive review of all Red Cross legislation, and in particular the primary legislation, will then be commenced by my Department.
In this regard, whilst I am conscious of the importance attaching to the independence of the Society, I have been in contact with the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross recently in relation to the Society's corporate governance arrangements. While I note that some progress has been made by the Society in this regard, it is in my opinion crucial that the Society makes further substantial progress to ensure that its corporate governance structures comply with the highest standards. For instance, it is not conducive to good corporate governance that any individual should serve indefinitely on the Central Council or the Executive Committee, or in the same appointment. I would urge the Society, which is the beneficiary of State funding - both directly and indirectly - to make further substantial progress in this area so as to ensure that its corporate governance standards meets what would be regarded as acceptable for an organisation of the calibre of the Red Cross. With this in mind, I have arranged to meet with the Chairman of the Society shortly. Officials from my Department have met regularly with the Irish Red Cross in recent months and will continue to do so. Officials have also met with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and in this regard I believe that an overriding principle must be to ensure that any legislative changes made have the full support of the International Federation.