appointed a new chairman to help tackle its financial difficulties.
Charles Stanley-Smith was appointed chairman after a ballot for the position at the organisation's annual general meeting in Galway on Saturday.
Mr Stanley-Smith, a businessman from north Tipperary, took the position from the second candidate, Frank Corcoran, who had been chairman for the previous three years.
The financial position of An Taisce is of "great concern" following a reduction in membership subscriptions by more than 40 per cent in the last two years, its annual general meeting was told.
Eric Conroy, honorary treasurer of the environment and heritage protection told members at its agm in Galway that fundraising must be a key priority for the management board in the coming year. He says it is disappointing to
report on the ongoing fall in membership subscription, down from €116,000 in 2004 to €68,000 in 2006.
It has 12 properties under its protection including Booterstown Marsh in south Dublin, Kanturk Castle in Cork, Gort Weigh House in Galway and An Taisce headquarters at Tailor's Hall in Dublin.
Income from the organisation's education unit, which includes the Blue Flag and Green School projects, has dropped from a high of €140,000 in 2005 to €100,000 last year.
An Taisce's largest running cost relates to its staff: it has 21 full- and part-time employees and last year salaries, wages and pensions amounted to €107,868, almost 50 per cent of the organisation's costs.
An Taisce's corporate sponsorship includes Greenstar, Repak, Coca Cola Ireland, the Wrigley Company and the EU. Some support is received from local authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dublin Transportation Office.
In 2006, the organisation made a small surplus, mainly attributable to a legacy bequest of more than €120,000. If it had not been made, An Taisce would have been in "very difficult financial territory".
Mr Stanley-Smith has served as chairman of the education unit in An Taisce in the past and has been a member of the organisation's council.
He currently works as an IT consultant and was the founder of the software company Piercom. He has also served on the Information Society Commission, which advised the Government on information technology policies in Ireland.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Stanley-Smith said he was pleased and honoured to be elected chairman of the organisation. He said that An Taisce was much like a small company and he wanted to bring some business organisation to it.
"In the next couple of weeks I want to put together a wide-ranging team, steady the ship and see what we should do thereafter."
He said that the drop in funding was partly due to the non-collection of subscriptions and he emphasised the fact that people could now pay online.
"We will be keeping a close eye on expenditure. It is tight, but we believe it is moving in the right direction," he said.
Mr Stanley-Smith highlighted the successes of An Taisce, particularly the Green Schools initiative.
"There are 22,000 Green Schools in the world; 2,500 of those are in Ireland," he said. "We run the most successful Green Schools initiative in the world."
He said that the Government appeared to be taking environmental issues more seriously and he would be looking for an opportunity to speak with John Gormley, the new Minister for the Environment.
"We are not here to tell anyone what to do, but we are always hopeful that we can help," he said.
© 2007 The Irish Times
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