KEHOE GETS THE OK

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Ollie Kehoe is the newly appointed Interim National Secretary, having taken office in October, succeeding Jimmy Cunningham.

The role of National Secretary will come up for election at the next meeting of National Council in April next year. One assumes that Mr. Kehoe will be running as a candidate.

Ollie Kehoe is an accomplished scouter with a wealth of experience at various levels in the association, including current NMC experience, where he is an ordinary member. He is also the former holder of a key Provincial role in the powerhouse South East Province. Theirishscouter recalls bumping into him at Jamboree 2008, where he appeared to be heavily involved in the organization of this large and successful event.

Kehoe is an impressive individual by any measure, with some personal challenges overcome with stamina and stoicism in recent times. He comes across as a strong personality and someone with clarity of thought and determination to succeed.

He will need such qualities in the role of National Secretary.

BACKGROUND ROLE

The secretary role in Scouting Ireland is unglamorous, labour intensive and mostly thankless. Much of the work is difficult and yet largely invisible to the average scouter. The workload is immense. New ‘Deputy National Secretary’ roles have been agreed by the NMC (as yet to be ratified by National Council). These additions to the team will help spread a gargantuan list of tasks, although as yet there is little evidence of prospective candidates beating a path to head up dull areas like ‘Corporate Governance’ or poison chalices such as ‘Disputes Resolution’.

National representatives and in particular those in the key portfolio roles such as Secretary, Treasurer and the Chief Commissioners, sometimes have a tendency to ‘go native’, being successfully house-trained by the permanent bureaucracy that in reality controls the national association (the NMC have been largely irrelevant to decision-making in scouting for some time. Increasingly in recent years, even the National Officers don’t always have the full picture as to what is going on).

It takes a strong personality indeed to resist the dull hand of the bureaucrats (who to be fair have endless time, and plenty of resources to hand to drive their agenda). Not every candidate is able to pursue a manifesto that truly serves the interests of the members when up against this challenge, not to mention the constraints of a fixed term and limited hours per week in which to focus on Scouting.

FRESH START

The elections in 2015 and 2016 gave hope to many in the association that things were finally starting to look up, after a prolonged period of centralization, intense politics and Machiavellian skullduggery at national level that demeaned the role of volunteers, eroded the status of the Scout Group as the centre of scouting and left a lot of members feeling disillusioned.

The distinctive whiff of nepotism and the rather more difficult to ignore stenches of misogyny and indeed homophobia that have pervaded in recent years were a rather too common feature in an association that seemed to be loosing its way nationally, despite a vibrant local network of volunteer-led groups across the country.

Whilst the tone has most definitely changed for the better and new leadership figures have heralded in a new era of promised transparency, fairness and general decency (let’s call it ‘scout like behaviour’ – remember that?), the fact is that the positive storyline has yet to trickle into some of the darker recesses of our national machinery.

The National Secretary will play a critical role in shaking up some of the structures and altering some of the practices that have fuelled a deep mistrust of and skepticism towards the National Management Committee and other national structures, including National Office.

Tensions between volunteers and professional staff – once virtually unheard of – have become rife in a national apparatus that nobody seems to be managing with any degree of strategic intent or indeed any obvious signs of competency.

The new National Secretary is not on record as yet in setting out his vision for the role and his term in it. This is a regrettable consequence of a mid-term changing of the guard and thus the elevation of a new secretary became a decision for the NMC and not the electorate at National Council.

CHAIR PERSON

The association has tended to have more seat-warmers in the National Secretary role to date than actual doers. In part, this is down to the extraordinary levels of difficulty around building consensus on key issues and getting things done in an environment where inertia is the default position. Necessary projects like a root and branch review into how we manage professional resources, with a view to ascertaining the true measurable value this big ticket expense delivers, will encounter fierce resistance for the simple reason that there are big wins in savings and resource allocation to be had, not to mention significant gaps in terms of delivery. It’s not in everyone’s interest to deliver change (or savings) in this area.

Disputes resolution, as a future article from theirishscouter will outline, is another area that is broken and needs a substantial overhaul by pragmatic scouters who understand how the association works on the ground. Ollie Kehoe combines strong management experience with a firm grounding in local scouting, so it will be interesting to see what plans unfold in this area.

Our new secretary was not available to speak with theirishscouter (one is given to understand that he is er, not a huge fan), so it may be closer to election time before a clearer picture is available that will help members understand where he sees the priorities in what is one of the more powerful jobs in the association.

In any event, theirishscouter wishes him well in the role. It is a difficult job and like any new entrant to a senior position, the Secretary deserves all of our support as he gets to grips with a full desk of issues.

10 thoughts on “KEHOE GETS THE OK”

  1. Thanks for your comments Dermot.

    Most professional staff in Scouting are apolitical, impartial and do their jobs well, often to a standard above and beyond expectation. I’ve long held (and articulated) that view.

    However as you are fully aware, some professional roles have become politicised. Staff cannot expect to play at being senior volunteers (and get paid for the privilege) without this politicisation being questioned/challenged. And having you on hand to manage the PR is probably going to generate more debate than it stifles, I would imagine.

    Some staff use their position to try to victimise volunteers who have noted this politicisation and are questioning it. THAT is probably unfair, whatever about being cowardly.

    1. For the life of me I am trying ( without success) to understand what you are saying in the final sentence of your second paragraph.I profoundly disagree with your final paragraph and believe you should substantiate it or withdraw it.

  2. 100% spot on accurate in your comment Garrett. At least somebody acknowledges what is really going on. Support staff me ass, we are paying their wages and we ain’t getting no support.

    1. Whatever about Garrets disgraceful and untrue comments it is in my view totally unacceptable for someone like “honest Joe” to be allowed make scurrilous comments without stating his/her real name. Shame on you Garret for allowing that. I have probably been involved in more high profile rows than most in SI or the old CBSI …..but always up front and in my own name. Through my work I come across the full time staff quite a lot…the truth is we are blessed with them……and dammed with the begrudge.

  3. I fully agree with Dermot. The continuous criticism of our professional staff cloaked in the comment “professional bureaucracy” is disgraceful, scurrilous and down right unscoutlike. Why don’t you put yourself forward for election Garrett and see just how much support your mealy mouthed input garners across the association. If the post of National secretary is available next year, why not put yourself forward and tackle the so called “professional bureaucracy”. You won’t of course because you know you won’t get elected and because it’s easier sitting in a far off land sniping and yapping about people whom you never name but whom you know because they are professional are unable to respond. Give us all a favour and dry up.

    1. Thanks for your comments Paul.

      I hope all is well with you.

      I stand over all my views and rest assured would not articulate them if I did not have written proof to substantiate. However, unlike others I am not in the business of character assassination – I want to see some dialogue and positive change.

      Opinions on the Scouting Ireland Chat Forum are censored by professional staff (unilaterally I might add), hence I express my views via this channel.

      I believe a debate is overdue on the topic of the blurred lines between the roles of (in particular) senior staff and volunteers and the liberties some staff take that risk undermining the whole premise of the professional/volunteer relationship. The above chat forum example is a case in point.

      I (and many others) also have reservations about the cost base of such a large professional team versus the services delivered to the membership. The management of same is a critical factor in my view.

      I have direct experience of two other charities that seem to be able to deliver far more with a tiny fraction of the investment in human resources. We need to ask questions about the value we are getting.

      I would run for office Paul, if I was not abroad for career reasons. I intend to do so in the future. I would not presume to predict the outcome of an election where I put myself forward as a candidate but I am aware that I am far from alone in having the above concerns.

      Incidentally, I have sought office before and ran against an incumbent (and got 45% of the vote on that occasion), so I have some form in putting my money where my mouth is.

      Your (and Dermot’s) reliable defense of your friends is to be respected, but the sole purpose of Scouting Ireland is not merely to act as a source of permanent, accountability free employment.

      The taboo of critiquing professional staff in broad terms and querying the associated cost base was broken, not by me or any other volunteer – it has been breached by a (tiny) number of professional staff consistently stepping over the line and behaving like senior volunteers, whilst enjoying the traditional protection afforded to (impartial, apolitical) employees.

      One cannot have one’s cake and eat it Paul.

      1. Why do you believe I am defending “my friends”?

        All my working life I challenged bullying and inappropriate behaviour. Your continuous denigration of “senior” “professional” staff is a form of bullying where you regularly make unsubstantiated assertions about individuals integrity and bona fides. If you believe there is something wrong take it up with the appropriate senior volunteer and get it looked at. Your manipulation of what you consider to be the truth from afar is despicable and unscoutlike. I only hope that one day you go too far and find yourself defending a slander/libel lawsuit. Enough is enough, give over.

        As for you honest joe, there is nothing honest about a cowardly attack from behind a pseudonym.

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