01/06/2009

NI Charity Commission Announced

A new organsiation to oversee local charities has been established.

Strormont's Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has today unveiled the first ever Charities Commission in Northern Ireland.

She said the move is needed as the current system means that there is a lack of transparency, potentially leading to a loss of public confidence.

Now as a result of the first piece of Northern Ireland legislation to go through the Assembly, there will be for the first time a clear definition of what is a charity; a register of all charities operating in Northern Ireland; a test of what is and isn't a charity and a charity regulator - who will be known as the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland - established.

The Minister also revealed the Chief Commissioner as Thomas McGrath, former Chair of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

She also said that Patricia Sloan, Director of BBC Children In Need had been appointed Deputy Chief Commissioner and Paul Cavanagh, Angela Chada, Philip McDonagh and Walter Rader appointed as commissioners.

Speaking at the launch in Barnardo's in Belfast, Margaret Ritchie described it as a red letter day for all charities.

"I would like to congratulate charities in Northern Ireland for the sterling work they do, often for very vulnerable people.

"But the system needs tightened up and overhauled. We need leadership.

"We need regulation. We need the public to be assured that the money they give is going to where it should go.

"The commissioners bring with them an array of skills and experience in the statutory, private and charitable sectors and I am confident that they can make a valuable contribution," she said.

"In Northern Ireland we have to date been out of step compared to Britain in that we have not had a charity commission. We have had what at best could be described as light touch regulation.

"I have sought to change this and to provide reassurance and confidence for charities and for the giving public."

Tom McGrath the newly appointed Chief Commissioner said: "As Charity Commissioners we must seek to fulfil our role as a regulatory body but we must not hinder the work of charities.

"Rather we should where possible seek to encourage and support that work within the context of our legal responsibilities," he said.

(BMcC/JM)

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