Charity workers stand by criticism of Roche


The group of overseas children's aid workers who have criticised the Labour Party's presidential nominee, Ms Adi Roche, have stood by their allegations over her personal style in running the Chrenobyl Children's Project.

At a meeting in Cork last night they denied they were politically motivated or were waging a personal vendetta against her.

One member of the group, Mr Tom O'Hanlon, said he wished to let the public know what he claimed was the truth about Ms Roche. Another former worker, Mr Denis Murphy, said he dreaded Ms Roche becoming president of Ireland. Her style of running the organisation was "Stalinist" and "power went to her head" he said.

A spokeswoman, Ms Anne Norman, who co-founded the Project with Ms Roche in 1990 but who has since resigned, said after the meeting in Blackrock the group had received calls from many other former members who wished to have an input into substantiating its allegations against Ms Roche. A fuller statement would be issued later.

Meanwhile, efforts were being made to establish whether the criticisms of Ms Roche, the Labour, Democratic Left and Green Party nomineeail parties for President, were being orchestrated at a political level.

Ms Roche said she was saddened by the "extremely hurtful" allegations, but vowed not to be "bullied out of the race." She strongly dismissed the claims by former members and employees of the charity that her "dictatorial, harassing and bullying attitude" prompted them to resign.

Following extensive reports of personality differences between Ms Roche and some of her former co-workers and a split within the Chernobyl Children's Project in the Sunday papers, a Labour Party spokesman said the matter seemed to have originated at "a personal grudge level". It had done some initial damage to Ms Roche's campaign.

Last night, eight executives attached to the Chernobyl Children's Project voiced their support for and confidence in Ms Roche. A statement said messages of support for her were flooding in from members of the organisation.

As Ms Roche attempted to shrug off attacks on her managerial style within the organisation she founded, supporters of Dana were faced with the prospect of having to begin the nomination process from scratch. Her legal advisers will meet the presidential returning officer in Dublin today to discuss the legality of the nominations she has already received from five county councils.

The election prospects of Prof Mary McAleese have been boosted by a decision by the Progressive Democrats to seek to endorse her as an agreed Government candidate. The Tanaiste and party leader, Ms Harney, will meet the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, today to discuss the matter.

Ms McAleese will be the first candidate to formally launch her campaign. Fianna Fail plans a national launch on Thursday, to be followed by an extensive tour, interspersed with radio and television interviews. The cost of the campaign has been estimated at a "modest" £300,000-350,000.

Fine Gael expects to spend "about £200,000" on its campaign to elect Ms Mary Banotti. The formal launch of her campaign is not expected to take place until "early October".

The Labour Party/Democratic Left/Green Party are considering a campaign budget of £150,000 for Ms Roche's campaign, with a formal launch next Monday.