The disclosure in the Sunday Independent (News, 17 July) that the State is providing a Government grant to subsidise a salary of €95,000 payable to a former senior banker at The Irish Red Cross is troubling.
But what is even more troubling was the disclosure in the Dáil at the end of June by Defence Minister Shatter that the State has paid over €9 million in grants to the Red Cross since 2002 to cover administration against a background of a 20-year history of consistently weak corporate governance and no accounts being published since 2008. The annual grant has not even been reduced since 2006.
The provision of an Annual Activity Report will be a requirement of the Charities Act 2009 when it becomes operational. The absence of accounts is particularly reprehensible especially after the Irish public generously donated over €33 million to the Red Cross after the Asian tsunami catastrophe.
The Military have confirmed that they have no record of the Red Cross having ever fulfilled its primary function since it was set up – to furnish volunteer aid to the sick and wounded of armies in times of war and to furnish relief to prisoners of war. When the legislation setting up the Red Cross was being debated in 1938 it was made absolutely clear that the only financial commitment envisaged by the State was the provision of a small start-up grant of £1,000 to establish an office.
This begs the question why the State has any financial commitment whatsoever to the Red Cross as it merely operates a small generic charity alongside those who receive no State support to fund their administration. It also raises the question as to whether the patronage of the Red Cross by the President of Ireland is desirable except when the Society is active in alleviating distress during war conditions in line with its statutory mandate.