That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the full implementation of the unenacted provisions of the Charities Act 2009; to include the advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose and to provide for related matters.
The Bill aims to enact provisions of the Charities Act 2009. The Act was passed to reform the law on charities and ensure they were regulated. It was also to instil public confidence in that system and assist with the urgent and vital fund-raising activities of charities. We saw a run of stories before Christmas that impacted on confidence in the charity sector. Unfortunately, it had a negative impact on charities that had done nothing wrong. As a result, many of them have reported a loss of income.
The Government has not implemented the legislation but has talked about the cost of establishing a regulatory office.
It has engaged in a consultation process on how some of the law could be enacted without having to establish a regulatory authority. That is not acceptable, particularly in the context of recent revelations in relation to the Central Remedial Clinic, representatives of which are appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts today.
This Bill seeks to set the date of 31 May 2014 in respect of full enactment of the Charities Act 2009 and to include therein advancement of human rights as a charitable purpose. Many of the existing organisations involved in human rights advocacy are charities that rely on fundraising and defend human rights not only in Ireland but overseas. We are very proud of the work done by these organisations, which is part of our infrastructure as a people in terms of our outreach to the outside world. Their omission from the Charities Act 2009 was unfortunate.
As I said, the objectives of the Charities (Amendment) Bill 2014 are, first, to set a date for full enactment of that Act in order to restore public confidence and regulation of the charities sector. The charities sector desperately wants this to happen. The second objective is to extend the scope of that legislation to include advancement of human rights.