ARDS Borough Council has unanimously passed a motion proposed by Alliance Alderman Kieran McCarthy MLA calling on the Government to establish a Charities Commission in Northern Ireland, with similar powers to the commission in England.
Alderman McCarthy proposed the motion after an investigative television programme disclosed that the overwhelming bulk of funds raised by a charity in his constituency was not going to those in need.
Alderman McCarthy stated: “Northern Irish people are amongst the most generous in the world and their sense of charity for those less fortunate than themselves is indisputable. We also have many bona fide charities that do amazing work throughout the world. However, donors expect their money to be put to good use – not to line the pockets of profit-making businessmen.
“When as little as five percent of money raised goes to those suffering, there is something wrong. When the other 95 percent goes on ‘administration’, we must act. One charity worker in Ballymena was even found to be supplying donated MoD aid trucks to the Serbian army a few years ago! Not only is this to the detriment of those the funds could help, but it undermines public confidence in charities and means our struggling legitimate charities lose out too.
“Sadly, there is no legislation or commission to prevent this kind of situation arising, and many so-called charities would have been closed down long ago if we had proper accountability. Instead, all we have are some ineffectual ad hoc arrangements that allow unscrupulous collectors to act with impunity. For some, charity is big business and very profitable.
“It is time for the government to act. Our generosity is being taken advantage of and many people are unsure of where their donations are actually going. If charity begins at home, we must have confidence in those who administer our donation, and if that does not exist, we must take steps to rectify the situation. A Charities Commission is essential, long overdue and will ensure that overseas aid goes to those in need and not into the pockets of those closer to home.”
The motion was passed unanimously and reads:
“That this Council writes to the Secretary of State asking for the establishment of a Charities Commission for Northern Ireland with the same powers as the similar commission in England.”