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IRELAND: Human rights included in the draft Charities Bill

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Statement by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) published on 29/04/22

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has today warmly welcomed the publication of the general scheme of the Charities (Amendment) Bill (2022) and the plans to grant human rights organisations charitable status for the first time. If passed, this Bill would mean that human rights organisations will be able to register as charities and should remove any reservations funders may have had about supporting human rights organisations. 

Speaking today, ICCL’s Executive Director Liam Herrick said;

“This draft Bill signals a welcome change in how the government views the status and importance of human rights in Ireland. The existing Charities Act from 2009 didn’t allow organisations who promote human rights to register as charities for that purpose, something that was criticised by UN officials. If passed, the Bill will bring Ireland into line with legislation elsewhere and strengthen our position as a world leader in promoting human rights.” 

The failure to allow organisations working on human rights to receive charitable status meant that some organisations have been unable to register as charities and come under the supervision of the Charities Regulator. It has also meant that some funders cannot offer grants as they require organisations to be registered as charities.  

The provisions contained in the draft bill, including improved accounting transparency and measures to protect board-members are generally welcome. However, ICCL has cautioned that any legislation such as this must consult widely with the charity and non-profit sector in order to ensure buy-in and that their concerns with respect to governance and oversight are addressed. 

“Minister O’Brien and his Department have delivered a very important piece of draft legislation today and they are to be commended for that. The next step now is to consult widely with stakeholders and to make sure that all those who currently and who in future will operate under the Act and the Charities Regulator have the opportunity to share their expertise as part of the legislative process.

A wide-ranging review of the operation of the 2009 Act is long overdue and those most affected by its provisions must be central to that process.  We want to see a situation where Ireland has a thriving, transparent and fairly regulated charities’ sector, the publication of this draft bill brings us further along that road but the inclusion of voices from the sector will be crucial as the legislation progresses.” 

ENDS/ 

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland. 

For comment: Liam Herrick or Ronan Kennedy

For media queries: sinead.nolan@iccl.ie