The refusal of the government parties to support Sinn Fein's Charities (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil this evening was deeply disappointing. The Bill sought to do what the government and its Fianna Fáil predecessor have failed to do and that is to regulate charities. By its action the government is failing charities at a very difficult time.
The scandal over top-ups to salaries at the Central Remedial Clinic is evidence of cronyism at its worst. What is striking is that these elites believe that they are entitled to these huge payments. But what is also clear is that there is a toxic culture of bonuses, top-ups, bail-outs and dig-outs where there is always money for the elites and none for services that the charities were established to provide.
Most importantly it is evidence of a failure by successive governments to legislate for charities.
Below find my contribution to the Dáil debate.
“Recent revelations surrounding the Central Remedial Clinic have raised significant public concern at the failure of the government to regulate charities.This has been compounded by the information provided last night by the Minister for Justice about the funding activities of the REHAB charity and the refusal of the Chief Executive of that organisation over some time to provide details of her salary.
In the case of the CRC funding raised by the Friends and Supporters of CRC was used to provide top-up allowances to senior staff. And all of this is now in the public consciousness.Last year this amounted to €250,000.
In December the CRC’s former chief executive told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that he was given €200,000 when he left the organisation.This came from charitable donations.
And then it was revealed that he had actually received a severance package of €740,000.It is estimated that half of the one and a half million euro raised last year from charity work by CRC was used to pay top-ups and their former chief executive.
A friend of mine, Donnacha Rynne from Miltown Malbay in Clare is disabled.His mother wrote to the Irish Times this week.
She wrote:“I have been following the story of the CRC and the top-ups for its executives.
I am the mother of a severely disabled man who has been bed-bound for the past year partly because there is no money to purchase a new wheelchair for him. He is on an emergency listed for a wheelchair, but we are told that due to lack of funds he will have to wait.”Ceann Comhairle, families who have raised millions of euro over many years to supplement the money the clinic receives from the Health Service are shocked and angry at these revelations.
Many are upset at what they see as a breach of trust.They are especially fearful that citizens will become sceptical about giving money to a charity which used charity money to pay already well paid officials.
Ceann Comhairle this is evidence of cronyism at its worst.What is striking is that these elites believe that they are entitled to these huge payments.
But what is also clear is that there is a toxic culture of bonuses, top-ups, bail-outs and dig-outs where there is always money for the elites and none for services that the charities were established to provide.Most importantly it is evidence of a failure by successive governments to legislate for charities
In 2009 Fianna Fáil passed legislation to regulate the charities sector but then failed to implement it.This government also sat on this Act for three years.
In February 2012 my colleague Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD asked Minister Shatter why the government had not implemented the Act.He was told that it couldn’t be done because of financial and staffing resources and that the Act was deferred.
The Minister also claimed that ‘it is not the fact that the charities in Ireland are devoid of oversight.’
As we now know the oversight referred to by the Minister has been woefully inadequate.Ceann Comhairle the CRC scandal and the questions about REHAB are causing enormous public disquiet.
The CRC and Irish Water scandals are part of a toxic political culture, marked by 'jobs for the boys', golden circles and elites.This culture has to be tackled.
A starting point would be the speedy and full implementation of the Charities Act.The government’s approach will see regulation introduced in a piecemeal fashion over a long period of time.
While this takes place public confidence in charities will continue to erode.Charities will find it harder to raise money.
A recent survey found that one in five Charities were facing a 10% dip in their donations even before CRC scandal.Most charities believe public trust has now been lost and many believe that the damage may be permanent.
It was also widely agreed by over 80% of respondents that the Government has not done enough to implement the Charities Act 2009.Ceann Comhairle charities provide an invaluable service.
They are for the most part full of citizens who care deeply for those they seek to help.Their integrity, honesty and honour is on the line.
It is also of crucial importance to record that some of these charities would not be necessary if the state provided as it should the services these citizens are entitled to.Given that the government is continuing to cut public services the government clearly does not believe that they should have equality.
The state and the government have failed to provide this.
The least it can do is to provide the legislative framework in which charities can provide their services."