CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Speech by An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD

Launch of the Charities Regulatory Authority's Statement of Strategy 2016-2018

Friday 15 July 2016

 

Thank you for that introduction. I want to express my appreciation to Paddy Hopkins and the Board of the Authority for their work since establishment a little over 18 months ago. I also want to welcome John Farrelly and congratulate him on his recent appointment as CEO. I’m sure your appointment feels like a very long time ago now, in light of recent events. I am also confident that you will do a great job in leading a very dedicated team in the implementation of this Strategy with determination, sensitivity and focus.

Recent controversies

Everyone here today is very conscious of the fact that the faith, trust and confidence of the Irish people in the charity sector has been severely damaged by the recent allegations at Console and some other charitable organisations active in Ireland. The reputations of the many thousands of volunteers and counsellors working in these and other charities, and indeed that of the charity sector as a whole, have been impacted.

The regulation of the charity sector will protect it and the most vulnerable of our citizens from further exploitation by unscrupulous, unprincipled and unethical individuals who have no place in it.

Better oversight of the charity sector will secure the future of the charity sector. I cannot stress that enough.

That’s why I am very pleased to be here today to launch the First Statement of Strategy of the Charities Regulator. The work, and the vision, of the Charities Regulator as indicated in the Statement of Strategy, is clearly going to be absolutely vital in restoring a sense of integrity to the charity sector.

Charities Act 2009

The Regulator was established as an independent agency on 16 October 2014 and is of course responsible for the registration and regulation of all the charities active in this country. This is a new initiative and one that was a priority for me on my appointment as Minister.

Last week I signed a statutory instrument to commence part 4 of the Charities Act. as of 5 September, the Regulator will have new investigatory and enforcement powers. This can only be good for the sector. Recruitment of the specialist regulatory staff required to make the most of these important functions is ongoing at the moment. These staff will help ensure that criminal activity and deliberate dishonesty in the charity sector - of all sectors - will not be tolerated.

And in that spirit I particularly welcome your objective to “Monitor proactively the compliance of charities with their legal obligations and to investigate any perceived breach”.

Need for Good Governance in the Sector

The expectations of the public and indeed of the authorities, has changed. There is now an appreciation of the need for - the vital importance of - good governance. That said, people also recognise the vital necessity of the work done by charitable organisations.

It is thanks to the ongoing advocacy of the charity sector that we are all aware of the needs of the less fortunate in our society. Homelessness, hunger, domestic abuse, mental health, care for the terminally ill and animal welfare are just some of the many areas in which charities provide services that are not provided by anyone else. It is precisely because the work that they do is so essential to the overall good of our society, as well as to the specific individuals they assist, that it must be managed properly.

The development of the Regulator’s Statement of Strategy has been informed by detailed engagement, interviews and an online public consultation which I understand received almost 500 responses. This is a very promising start and augurs well for the future. The purpose of the Regulator is to ensure that that charity work remains the focus and inspiration for those working in the sector, donors and potential donors, rather than wider concerns about ethical standards. The compliance of charitable organisations with the requirements of the Regulator will provide reassurance.

Transparency

Ireland is renowned for its tradition of providing assistance to those in need, both at home and abroad. However, neither the charity sector nor the public can afford complacency. The Regulator will ensure that this vitally important work is done openly, honestly and in a fully accountable manner, which means that we can all continue to trust charities, to take pride in their accomplishments and to thank them for all that they do.

The Irish people expect the charity sector to conduct its business in an honest and professional manner. The sector needs to promote greater awareness of the scope and necessity of its work to the public and other stakeholders. This is what will regain the public’s trust and confidence.

Regulator’s Work in the Years Ahead (2016-2018)

This first Statement of Strategy covers the period 2016 to 2018. It sets out the organisation’s values and ambitions and outlines its key objectives over that timeframe. These include maintaining a public, statutory register and reporting framework for charities operating in Ireland, proactive monitoring of the compliance of charities with their legal obligations and investigating any perceived breaches of those obligations, effective engagement with all stakeholders and the development of its strengths as an independent regulatory agency.

Over the next three years, thanks to the Register and ongoing outreach, the Regulator will increase the information available on registered charities. This work will help to strengthen the accountability of the charity sector and provide a valuable source of information for charity funding bodies, donors and beneficiaries.

There are increased expectations on the part of public and private funders that charities will work to improve their efficiency, value for money and accountability. The Regulator has a part to play in the rebuilding of public trust in charities through effective and proportionate regulation that supports high standards of governance, management and administration. The successful achievement of the objectives listed in this Statement of Strategy will result in greater awareness and visibility within the charity sector and with other stakeholders about the work that they do and the importance of good governance.

The role of the Charities Regulator is to assist the many wonderful charitable organisations working here in retaining the trust and confidence of the public. I hope its success helps to ensure that the charity sector in Ireland continues to benefit from the generosity, compassion and public spirit of the Irish people.

 

ENDS