Scouting Ireland is this week getting to grips with the news that the National Secretary Jimmy Cunningham has tendered his resignation, just half way into his term of office.
There is no question that in terms of impact on the association in a limited timeframe, Jimmy Cunningham will rank highly. The role of National Secretary has one of the lowest ‘glamour to workload’ ratios among all the key national roles in Scouting. And that workload is immense.
Whilst some occupants of the role in the past have sometimes seemed content to leave parts of the job to others and/or simply prioritize and focus on critical issues only, Jimmy seems to have taken the view that all aspects of the job need to be done well. Unfortunately this seems to rule out anyone in full-time employment and/or seeking any sort of work/life balance from taking on the role.
Most of Jimmy’s predecessors both in Scouting Ireland and in the legacy associations had a big workload, but did not have some of the additional responsibilities recently added to the brief.
Key among these is the governance related work driven by the Charities acts in both jurisdictions in which Scouting Ireland operates. This is a complex area and one that Scouting seemed to be caught napping on, ensuring the successful 2015 candidate for National Secretary was already likely to be on the back foot in terms of getting to grips with delivering a positive outcome for Scouting into the longer term.
The unprecedented scenario around the non-election of a Chief Scout in April 2015 meant that in addition to having a greatly increased workload in the role he sought to be elected to, the National Secretary also found himself in a unique position of leadership at a challenging time for Scouting Ireland.
It was perhaps not a huge surprise to the membership that Jimmy Cunningham stepped up and took the lead to steady the ship at this difficult time.
His integrity, good nature and leadership strength played a central role in seeking to manage a difficult set of circumstances and help deliver a positive outcome.
Jimmy Cunningham unknowingly also became the flag-bearer for the vast majority of members who wanted to see an end to the culture of machiavellianism and nepotism that had been festering in Scouting for some time. Following over half a decade of stagnation and centralisation with far too few people at national level willing to step up, his honest brokering and steely determination to do what was right saw him provide the impetus for hundreds of others who had been waiting for someone to take a decisive leadership role.
He played a central role in unleashing the tidal wave of positivity that the new Chief Scout Christy Mc Cann has aligned with, built upon and it seems clear will take forward for the benefit of everyone in our great association.
Jimmy Cunningham has had an all too brief period at the helm of a major portfolio of work and responsibility in Scouting Ireland. His successor will need to match his integrity and honesty, but the wider question around the capacity of a single volunteer to undertake this vast responsibility needs to be tackled.
Meanwhile, our outgoing National Secretary will be far, far more than a footnote in the association’s history. In his brief period in office, he showed that openness, integrity and honesty are not just desirable in a senior leadership figure in Scouting, they are now the standard by which all others will be judged.
The association is on an upward trajectory, from solid foundations set in part by Jimmy Cunningham. He has done the association some service.
The irish scouter wishes him the very best of everything for his future in Scouting.