Pursuant to the Red Cross Act of 1938, the Irish Red Cross Society was established by Government order in 1939 as an independent charitable body corporate with full power to manage and administer its own affairs. Since 1939, the relevant establishment order had undergone piecemeal changes only but, in April of last year, I received Government approval to make substantial changes to the 1939 order. These represented the most wide-ranging and fundamental set of changes to have occurred since the establishment of the society. One of the key changes made was a substantial reduction in the number of Government nominees to the society’s general assembly, from not less than one third of its composition to not more than 10%. The legislation was also amended to provide that the chairperson of the society is now elected by the society itself, in accordance with its own rules and constitution, rather than by the President. In tandem with the Government’s initiative in amending the legislation, the society itself made a number of very progressive changes to its constitution and rules. I believe the society now has in place a 21st century corporate governance framework that meets the rigorous standards set for good governance internationally by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IFRC, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC.
There is clearly a strong impetus for change within the society itself, and while a lot of important initiatives have been taken place over the past two years, these have tended, necessarily, to be focused on governance reform, the overhaul of the society’s financial management systems and reporting processes, and a revision of its operating policies and procedures. I am pleased to note this work is substantially complete and the attention of the society has turned to addressing other strategic challenges such as the development of a resilient and reliable funding base, more dynamic management of resources and the development of organisational structures that will enable the society to deliver its services more effectively to its beneficiaries, at home and abroad.
I am satisfied this phase of the society’s reform is now gathering momentum and I understand the board of directors has recently set progress milestones for itself to ensure these reforms remain on course for completion by the middle of next year.
Finally, it is important that I also mention the commitment made in the programme for Government 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. I can confirm that my Department has commenced work on the review and I anticipate this will result in a Red Cross Act amendment Bill during the lifetime of this Government.