Charities (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) [Private Members]

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I want to confirm my support for this Private Members' Bill. The activities uncovered recently in charity boards, with salary top-ups and pension payments, is completely unacceptable and an affront to the ordinary people of this country, who are paying through the nose for a recession which had they no hand, act or part in creating. The debacle we have seen has the potential to destroy the base of charity donations, as has been indicated in various surveys over a period. That is beginning to happen, and if the process continues, it will completely undermine the services being provided by the various agencies, such as the Central Remedial Clinic.

A host of services is being provided in this sector at national and local level. Many if not all these services should be provided by the State. Local and national organisations provide services on behalf of the State, with locals serving in a voluntary basis on boards and doing an excellent job. The debacle we have witnessed reflects very poorly on the very good work being done at local and national levels by many organisations, with individuals serving on a voluntary basis on the boards.

This issue again reflects the fundamentally unacceptable policy of the Government. There is an elite golden circle who are cosseted and supported; they have made money from being central to the collapse of this economy, and they continue to make money from our current position.

I must call the Deputy's colleagues.

In contrast, ordinary people are being absolutely fleeced and made pay for the recession that they have had no hand, act or part in creating. That is fundamentally wrong and will have to stop.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this new piece of legislation, the Charities (Amendment) Act 2014. I warmly welcome the legislation and I will strongly support it. The Bill would fully enact all the provisions of the Charities Act 2009, which brought about reform in the law relating to charities in order to ensure greater accountability and protect against abuse of charitable status and fraud. These three words, "accountability", "abuse" and "fraud", have become pertinent in recent weeks, with scandals apparent in the sector.

There has been talk of a regulator and of course we need one for the charities sector. That person should be good, accountable, professional and efficient. That has not been mentioned in this debate as everybody thinks a regulator will solve all the problems. We must have the right person and team of people to oversee this regulation. We have seen disaster in the past in the banking sector because of a lack of regulation, so the issue is very important.

Section 2 of the proposed legislation sets out the advancement of human rights as being included as a charitable purpose via amendment of section 3 of the 2009 Act. Human rights is a key phrase as many people with disabilities, as well as their families, are sick and tired of buckets and charities because they want their rights as citizens. They pay taxes every single day and they want the equality they deserve. They are sick to death of the mentality that still exists in this country, as the fat cats get big salaries of €200,000 to €400,000 as they work with people with disabilities. It is unacceptable. We need equality and justice, and I urge everybody to support this very important piece of legislation.

I am also delighted to see that the principle of equivalence, which lies behind the Good Friday Agreement and directed much legislation in this area, has been seen as very important. We want to build an island with a basis in human rights, equality and respect for all citizens and particularly those with physical and intellectual disability.

All of us have been absolutely disgusted by some of the matters revealed in the past number of weeks. It is one thing to be disgusted and debate it in the Chamber but it is something else to act. We must deal with the issue as a matter of the most extreme urgency. It is not a case of just doing anything as the approach in this piece of legislation must be followed by the Government. There is a lead in this Bill relating to human rights advancement with regard to what defines charitable organisations. That is an extremely important point, and it has not been fully appreciated that human rights organisations focused on that area alone will not be able to avail of existing legislation. The problem should be addressed.

Deputy Finian McGrath is correct in that there is an over-reliance on charity. When donations drop by half we can see just how vulnerable are the services provided through that sector. We must get to a point where there is an absolute minimum level of service that people cannot fall below. I would also like to see included areas that could be seen prior to Christmas on an RTE "Prime Time" programme, and these are another side of the fund-raising arm of charitable organisations. Specifically, it related to religious organisations which claimed to be able to treat people suffering from addiction. The RTE investigation unit uncovered examples of vulnerable people being asked to work 18 hours a day in fund-raising by some very questionable organisations, and such issues must be brought under the remit of the law.

We can see how fragmented some of our services are and sometimes it strikes me that the country is stuck together with Sellotape. Many of our organisations reflect that but we must get beyond our current position in order to start building decent institutions.

I welcome the Bill which has been introduced by Deputy Mac Lochlainn and I support its intentions. Including the advancement of human rights in the 2009 Act is an excellent idea, as is setting out a timescale for full implementation of the Act. I also welcome the recent commitment by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to ensure the regulator will be in place by Easter. In that context, I am surprised and disappointed that the Government would not support this Bill. It seems a very simple, sensible and non-political Bill, which provides a very painless way for the Oireachtas as a whole to demonstrate support for what needs to be done. I am disappointed by the missed opportunity from the Government.

It is clear that we need a regulator in the charities sector, as there are approximately 8,000 registered charities, with approximately €1 billion in public money disbursed every year. As we know, public confidence in the sector is shot because of revelations about top-up payments and severance packages, and charities have been calling for the establishment of a regulator for a very long time. The Oireachtas has failed those charities as it is only now, after five years, that it is implementing something important that has been sought for a long time.

Having consulted people in the sector, there are two issues I want to raise with the Minister, and perhaps he could revert to me about them. We have been told that the chief executive and other staff of the regulator will be found from existing Civil Service resources.

That is being interpreted as allowing hiring only from the Civil Service. Obviously, there are many fine and capable civil servants but there are many others with valuable expertise and experience, including within charities and the private sector, academia and other parts of the public sector, who have a lot to bring to bear in this regard. I ask the Minister to let me know whether civil servants alone are to be allowed join the regulator. If so, why? If it is the case, it would be a major mistake.

The second concern raised is that the charities have been given no guidance as yet on future governance. As the Minister is aware, there is a multitude of voluntary codes in place. Some are Irish and others are from the United Kingdom. The charities want to know how this matter will be dealt with. For example, they are asking whether a single, unified governance code will be imposed on them. They are asking what mandatory, financial and procedural implications this might have. On this point, the Minister might revert to me. I ask the Government to let the sector know as quickly as possible how this will be dealt with by the regulator.

Let me add my voice to those of many Deputies and many in the charities sector in hoping that the disgraceful revelations concerning the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, will not continue to damage the many excellent and well-run charities in the country.

Deputies Damien English, Áine Collins, Joe McHugh, Michelle Mulherin, Helen McEntee, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Jim Daly, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Tony McLoughlin, Eamonn Maloney and Jerry Buttimer are sharing time. Each has two minutes.

I will speak fast for once in my life.

I welcome the decision of the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to establish the charities regulator. He has announced an aggressive timeline for establishing it. In fairness to him, this decision was taken some time ago and his announcement is not a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis in the CRC, as some critics have alleged. I am concerned, however, over the lag between the Minister's decision and the implementation. Had the charities regulator been in place, it might have been possible to limit the damage to the reputation of the CRC rather than drag down the whole charity sector. Deputy Donnelly said what is occurring has been taking place for the past few years but I first spoke on charities legislation in 2003. This matter could have been dealt with a long time ago. We wanted to change the circumstances that obtained in 2003 also.

We must make no mistake that the entire charity sector has suffered as a result of the recent revelations. Over the past seven years, the sector has been hit by a perfect storm. The level of support has fallen in the State by between 20% and 40%, depending on the charity. Donations from the public have decreased. Owing to the state of the public finances, grants have been reduced.

I am reliably informed that even before the CRC crisis, the percentage of Irish people giving to charity had for the first time fallen below that giving to charity in the United Kingdom. The impact of the CRC scandal has been profound. The period up to Christmas is a key one for many charities as some take in up to 60% of their income in those weeks. Fundraising Ireland reported charitable income was down by 40%.

The longer-term impact may be even more profound. The chairman of one small charity told me it does not intend to run any bucket or bag-packing drives using volunteers this year as it is afraid those volunteers will be abused by members of the public. Left unaddressed, we will see not only a fall in fund-raising income, but also a decline in the number of people volunteering and, crucially, the number willing to serve on charity boards at a time when good governance is needed more than ever. We need the Minister to appoint the regulator as a matter of urgency and ensure the office of regulator is properly resourced. I urge him to pay particular attention to the board of the new body and those who serve on it. Legislation is rightly very specific on the skills and qualifications necessary for board membership but we need people not only with the right skills, but also with a stature such that the public can trust them to try to restore the reputation.

Charities need to step up to the mark. Every charity needs to sign up to and implement the fund-raising codes and code of governance and produce and publish the compliant accounts. The charity sector needs to understand that this is no longer the gold standard but the minimum that any serious fund-raising charity needs to meet. Charities need to consider a co-ordinated response to the lack of trust. For example, they must ask whether we need a quality mark for the sector so charities can clearly and easily show the public they are adhering to best standards. This House also needs to step up to the mark.

I acknowledge the work of Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn in bringing his legislation forward. The detail and the Minister's insight will obviously result in a different perspective on this side of the House.

Let us consider the views of the individual citizen watching the circus of the CRC and the Rehab debacle. A farmer watching the 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. news looks at the amount of regulation at farm level and notes the regulation requiring his jeep to be tested every year. He notes all the regulations and bureaucracy in his life and his family's lives only to turn on the television to see a man receiving a golden handshake worth €742,000 without regulation. That is what is driving people daft and silly. It it is not just a case of annoyance as no word can describe it. The issue surrounding the CRC and the golden handshake is just disgusting. One should bear in mind the great work done at the CRC and the great work done for people who need and rely on its services. The downside may be a lack of funding for them as a consequence of this debacle.

With regard to Rehab, I want to make a point that indicates some confusion in my mind. Last night, the Minister commented on figures and asked questions about the proportion of money coming in as opposed to going out and the net profit showing. The Taoiseach did so this morning. They were legitimate enough questions bearing in mind ministerial responsibility to this House. How could Rehab, the plaintiff, have a spokesperson make a public comment on the very same issue at a committee meeting on 9 October 2013 and yet regard the comments made last night by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, in his capacity as a member of the Executive, a responsible position in this House, as inappropriate? That confuses me and verification is required.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Charities (Amendment) Bill. With all the recent disclosures regarding certain charities, we are in general agreement in the House that drastic and urgent action is needed. I do not want to get into any detail on particular cases right now. I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts and assure Members that the committee will continue with its investigations. Its reports will be submitted to the House as quickly as possible. Irrespective of what action is taken, it is essential that the Oireachtas plays its part in restoring the faith of the public in charitable organisations.

Despite some of the recent revelations, I am quite confident that most charitable organisations in Ireland do excellent work, especially front of house. I include all the work done with children and the disadvantaged in many areas and in a very prudent and effective manner. A considerable number of very genuine people are involved in the agencies. Volunteers give freely of their time and energy to support various charities. Very dedicated staff are providing important services on the ground. These people must not be tarnished by recent controversies.

Many charities have suffered considerable reductions in donations over recent weeks and months. Inevitably, services to vulnerable people will be affected if this continues. There is an onus on all of us to put in place a strong regulatory regime that will help to restore confidence in the sector.

As part of the Charities Act 2009, a new independent charities regulator is to be established. The sections of the Act that could have been commenced in advance of the establishment of the authority have been commenced. The remainder will be commenced following the establishment of the authority. The Minister for Justice and Equality intends to establish the authority as early as possible this year. The Department of Justice and Equality has received sanction for the appointment of an interim chief executive officer and staff. The authority will give us a much-needed increase in transparency and accountability in the charity sector; this is critical. A vibrant charity sector must be trusted and enjoy the confidence of the public. I would examine the accounting and reporting standards for charitable organisations. Currently, they come under the Companies Acts, especially if they are limited by guarantee and are not for profit. This needs to be addressed so there will be more transparency on salaries, directors, etc.

I welcome the chance to speak in this debate. The community and voluntary sector is one of the largest in the State and it makes a huge contribution to the economy, not to mention society as a whole. We are all aware of community and voluntary groups' great importance.

We recognise the role they play in supporting the State in areas such as health service delivery and community development. Given their completion of functions on behalf of the State, it is important that their work be carried out in a fully transparent manner and that they all sing from the same hymn sheet. In the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about the charity sector, but, unfortunately, none of it has been good. The behaviour of a few - as we have seen in recent revelations at the Committee of Public Accounts and by the Minister for Justice and Equality last night - is nothing short of a betrayal of thousands working in this sector and has damaged the extremely important work charities are doing. Since my election last year, I have met numerous voluntary organisations which are doing amazing work. Most of them operate to the highest standards of governance and many have signed up to voluntary codes of practice, but that, clearly, is not enough to restore public trust in the light of the recent scandals. Public confidence in the charity sector has been eroded. We saw a similar situation in the past in the building sector, where self-regulation meant no regulation. It is not just politicians but also charities which have been calling for regulation of the sector. The setting up of the regulatory authority has not just been welcomed by Members of this House but also by voluntary organisations.

The setting up of a regulatory authority is an important step towards regaining public trust, but it must done properly. The authority will have an enormous role to play in promoting good practices, setting and enforcing standards and restoring public trust. It cannot be yet another body with limited powers. It must be entirely free of conflicts of interest. It must be given the independence to initiate investigations and hold people to account. Organisations or individuals that are under investigation by the authority must be subject to the full rigours of the law. Without the fear of consequences and people feeling they will be held accountable, bad practices will continue, with or without a charities regulator. It is important that we do this properly. It is only by getting it right that we can restore public confidence and fix some of the mess made which has come to light recently. It will enable the thousands of committed, hard-working and decent people who are working in the sector to continue their good work. I commend the work of the Committee of Public Accounts on bringing certain things to light and fully support those working in the sector.

Mother Teresa said:

Love is not patronising and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same - with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead.

Irish people have an admirable and unwavering reputation for generosity that puts us ahead of many of our international counterparts. We do not just give money, we also regularly reach out our hand to help and volunteer. I am involved in a number of charities. I help to fund-raise, organise events, volunteer and contribute to charities, as do many other Oireachtas Members and thousands throughout the country. There are hundreds of excellent charities operating in the country. Given the recent CRC revelations, it is timely that we discuss the importance and urgency of implementation of the Charities Act. The wrongdoing of what I hope will only be a small number of people has rocked the foundations of a worthy sector that is reliant on the public's goodwill and generosity. There is something rotten in the state of charity funding if money raised by charitable organisations does not go to the people the public envisaged it was helping. Irish charities are now reporting that donations are down by 10% since the revelations. Implementation of the Act is necessary to help to remove the doubts that have crept into the minds of people who generously donate to charities. We must ensure we have in place a properly regulated charity sector once and for all. I welcome the Minister's announcement that the board of the regulatory authority will be appointed by Easter. The new authority must lead by example and be transparent. It will require a robust board that is not dominated by the cronyism and golden handshakes that we have seen in the past. It will I hope help to avert any future crisis in public confidence through its transparency, leadership, accountability, best practice and corporate governance. I look forward to the full roll-out of the Act this year.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to what is arguably one of the most of important debates in this House because it addresses something that is not just relevant for us, as legislators or politicians, but also as human beings. Last week, as I travelled through Clonakilty and Bandon, I came across an anger about this issue that was unparalleled in my ten years in public life. A light has been shone in a very dark corner and it has been extremely uncomfortable for every one of us. It is too simple to lay the blame for this at the door of the Government or politicians generally. Unfortunately, there is a malaise in human nature itself, which is what makes it so uncomfortable for us. That malaise is real and has been there since time immemorial. It is an ugly nettle that we, as a society, will have to grasp. There will be much more discomfort for us as a society as lights are shone in other dark corners. I urge the Government to continue in this vein because now is the time for leadership and courage. It must continue its quest to hold all those who claim charitable status to account. I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality on the further revelations he laid bare last night. Again, it is very uncomfortable for any of us who has supported charities such as Rehab to realise the uselessness of that support, based on the amount of money which actually went to the service users. Supporting service users is the intention of anyone who puts €5 into a bucket and gets a couple of scratch cards. I regret the response of Rehab and appeal to that organisation, in the interests of society as a whole, to play the ball in this debate, not the man. If there are facts to be put in the public domain or if there are corrections to be made to anything the Minister said, they would be very welcome. Playing the ball is what needs to be done.

There has been too much deference shown in our society during the years, at enormous cost. Too much deference was shown to the political class, the church and many other organisations and the charity sector is no different. We cannot assume that because an organisation is charitable, it is holier than thou and good. There are many organisations about which I have many concerns, one of which is Family & Life. That organisation sends letters to what I believe is a very targeted audience of primarily elderly, vulnerable people, soliciting donations of up to €7,000 in the name of charity. It deserves to have a strong light shone on its activities. There are numerous others about which we should also be concerned. We must have courage, be brave and continue our quest to shine that light.

I welcome the opportunity the Bill has afforded me to speak. I understand from where Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn is coming in proposing his amendment, but I accept the comments of the Minister on the human rights aspect of it.

Irish people are renowned for their generosity in making charitable donations. Whenever a disaster strikes, whether it be local, national or international, we can be sure Irish people will either fund-raise themselves or give generously to help those in greatest need. The lack of regulation in the past has allowed some in the charity sector to take advantage of this giving nature. In fact, charities have become an industry and there is huge diversity in their size. There are 24,000 not-for-profit organisations in Ireland, which figure is an illustration of the fact that charities have become an industry. Of these 24,000 organisations, 8,342 qualify for a charitable tax exemption. The annual income of the top ten is €740,000 or above.

In a sector worth €4.9 billion, it is clear that a small number of charities are receiving the lion's share of the money both from fund-raising activity and from the State. The recent revelations on the salaries of some CEOs have not only astonished many of us but disappointed us too. Everyone in the Dáil and in every household in the country has given generously to charity in good faith that the money will go to those who need it most. Serious damage has been done. Even with the downturn in the economy, in 2010 and 2011 the fund-raising figures rose. That is, again, an illustration of the generosity of the Irish people. I am afraid that 2012 and 2013 will reveal a different story. The few have caused problems for so very many.

While some charities are subject to the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Revenue, and criminal and fraud legislation already, the introduction of the regulator, as planned by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, is necessary and will help rebuild the trust as never before required by the Irish people. It is in the interests of both the public and the State that the regulator is put in place as soon as possible. That will help restore public confidence and introduce additional transparency, which the majority of charities will welcome, as the genuine charities that do everything correctly and comply with good corporate governance and good financial arrangements need our support more than ever.

I acknowledge the leadership of the Irish Charities Tax Reform Group, which has carried out good work within the sector. It has continued to advocate good practice, organised seminars and provided a statement of guiding principles for charities. It has also worked very hard with the Department in order to progress the establishment of a regulator. Trust must be restored as soon as possible. The charities service users deserve no less.

Members will be aware that there has been a 40% cent drop in donations to charity in the two weeks since the scandal of top-ups to executives' salaries was revealed. Fundraising Ireland stated recently that this issue has reached crisis point in the sector and charities are taking calls every hour from people seeking to cancel subscriptions. People feel let down, which is understandable.

It is understandable too that this Dáil would seek immediately to address this impasse. I note the concerns of all to try to allow charities to regain their reputation. From time to time, most of us have either fund-raised or involved ourselves in a charity locally. We did so because we witnessed the work done by those same groups that enabled many families to have a better life. This week, amid the debate on the issues around the remuneration of senior executives within the CRC, we were reminded by parents of children who need the clinic and the clients of CRC of the fantastic work and therapy provided at Clontarf. That is the reason we must focus on allowing the work to continue and so that the wonderful staff there can move on and continue to provide their services at the CRC.

According to Fundraising Ireland's CEO, Anne Hannify: "We need a regulator, we need more transparency, and more openness...the public have a right to know where their money is going." People who have donated so generously in the past feel cheated and fooled and the only way forward is the establishment of a charities regulatory authority, CRA. The proposals are now approved by Government. I warmly welcome the fact that the Department of Justice and Equality has been given the green light for the appointment of an interim CEO and for the allocation of a number of staff to the authority. Furthermore, I welcome the commitment by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to seek expressions of interest in membership of the board of a new authority, which I understand could be up and running later in the summer.

The CRA will provide transparency, accountability and good practice in charity governance and management. That is what the public want and has a right to expect, and will lead to increased donations and voluntary support for the sector. The reason we could not fully introduce the 2009 Act was due to cost implications. However, the commitment by the Minister is very welcome and allows charities to come under the umbrella of checks and scrutiny and will restore the confidence of the public to part with their hard-earned money and allow vital charities in society to continue to make their valuable contribution. I commend the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on his decisive action with limited resources to set up the authority. I will conclude by urging charities to at all times take the opportunity to display their management and financial affairs through a very clear window for us all to see and understand.

I share the view expressed by Members last night and tonight that this is one of the most interesting debates we have had in the House. I have listened to most of the contributions. It will undoubtedly go down as one of the best debates with many stimulating contributions.

All Members welcome the Bill and the principle of what is proposed. Ultimately, we will have an authority. As Deputy Mac Lochlainn indicated, there is a need for a regulator. We must introduce regulation in this jurisdiction. The difficulties we are now dealing with were ignored by politicians in the past, which is the reason we are in this mess. Where there is no regulation some of those involved will do things they should not. Essentially, that is what has happened. The volume of charities registered with Revenue is in excess of 8,000. It makes one wonder what that says about us with a small population of approximately 4 million.

Historically, if one registers as a charity with Revenue, one has the status of being tax exempt. I take the view that all those who work for a living should pay their taxes. That is the duty of every citizen. I apply the same standard to charities. In one way or another charities collect money or get it from the State or from us as taxpayers. I do not think any of them should be tax exempt. It is possible that, as in other jurisdictions, they would pay a nominal sum of money. That is the way it should be because the status quo has led to where we are now and to abuse by some due to the lack of accountability.

Charities are one thing but I have long held the view that trusts in this country have far too much autonomy. They operate as secret societies that essentially do what they like. They appoint who they like to the trust. It is bad practice and as politicians we should not tolerate it and we should address it in the Bill.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. It is important that we work collectively to restore the tarnished image of the charitable sector, but in particular we must help to restore the image of those who work for charities, volunteer for charities and the service users who need and require the service provided by many charitable organisations.

As somebody who has raised funds in Cork for the COPE Foundation, Cork Mental Health and the Irish Cancer Society, has participated in church gate collections, has sold a box of flags in a shopping centre and has asked for money, it is critical that we ask the people of this country to continue to support charities. That is the first part of the debate. We must never lose sight of that aim.

It is important that a sense of right and wrong is re-established and that those in the charitable sector in charge of governance must recognise that whether it is public money or it has come from donations there must be transparency, accountability and legitimacy in terms of the money spent, where it goes and in particular that it is spent on the service users and facilities for them.

Let us put the matter in context; there are many charitable organisations providing a service and support to people that the State has not addressed. One could ask where we would be without them. Where would we in Cork be without the COPE Foundation?

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, was correct last night on the Rehab group. It is important, as Deputy Jim Daly said that there is an opportunity for the organisation to reply and we play the ball not politics with this issue. There must be compliance in the charities sector with absolute integrity restored in it. I call on those involved to voluntarily come forward and ensure compliance.

I was the Fine Gael Seanad spokesman on the charity sector when the Charities Act was introduced there. There was a strong debate in the Upper House regarding the human rights element in the legislation. I hope we will come back to this issue at a future date. I welcome the Minister’s decision to implement the Charities Act so that we will have a regulator for the sector. However, a regulator alone will not solve this problem.

There must be proper governance and adherence to articles of association. What are auditors signing off on when it comes to these groups’ accounts? No one has yet asked this question in the debate. Annual accounts are signed off on and presented to annual general meetings with no queries from auditors. To have transparency, it is important to restore confidence and trust. However, it must also be ensured that the service-users and their families are given the services they need and deserve. All of us have a duty and responsibility to help restore confidence in the charity sector. The people have always given to charity which must continue. This debate must rise above the partisan level to ensure our charitable sector is viable, honest and just.

I call Deputy Adams who I understand is sharing time with Deputies Crowe, Pearse Doherty and Ellis. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The recent revelations about the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC, have raised significant public concern at the failure of the Government to regulate the charities sector. This was compounded by the information provided last night by the Minister for Justice and Equality about the funding activities of the Rehab charity and the refusal over some time by its chief executive to provide details of her salary.

In the case of the CRC, funding raised by the Friends and Supporters of the Central Remedial Clinic group was used to provide top-up allowances to senior staff. 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 Committee of Public Accounts that he was given €200,000 when he left the organisation, which came from charitable donations. A kid caught robbing from the poor box in the chapel would be in Mountjoy Prison. Then it was revealed the CRC’s former chief executive actually received a severance package of €740,000. Ceapaim go n-aontaíonn achan duine liom nuair a deirim nach bhfuil aon rud mhaith ag baint leis an tsaint. It is estimated that half of the €1.5 million raised last year from charity work by the CRC was used to pay top-ups to its former chief executive.

I have a friend, Donnacha Rynne, whose mother, Anne, recently wrote a letter to The Irish Times which I want to read into the Official Report.

A chara,

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 [my friend, Donnacha] 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 list for a wheelchair, but we are told that due to lack of funds he will have to wait.

I feel sick I am so upset

Is mise,

Anne Rynne,

Miltown Malbay, County Clare.

Families who raised millions of euro over many years to supplement the moneys the CRC received from the health service are shocked and angry at this week and last week’s revelations. Many are upset at what they see as a breach of trust. What is also clear is that there is a toxic culture of bonuses, top-ups and bailouts where there is always money for the elites but none for the services that the charities were established to provide. Tá daoine ar buile agus tuigim cén fáth. Ní thuigeann daoine bochta ná teaghlaigh faoi strus na rudaí a tharla an tseachtain seo ná leis an CRC agus carthanachtaí eile.

These citizens are especially fearful because they feel the public will become sceptical - the public do have the right to be - about giving money to a charity which uses these moneys to pay already well-paid officials. This is evidence of cronyism at its worst. What is also striking is that these elites believe they are entitled to these large payments. This is not just confined to the charities sector but exists across every sector. This is a toxic mix which has been in this State for a long time. The can of worms has only slightly been opened up so far. I believe we are going to see more of these types of revelations.

We need to tell and assure the people this will be sorted and fixed. However, it cannot be fixed in the piecemeal way the Government is going about it. There is evidence there has been no regulation of charities or most other sectors since the State was established. Human nature being what it is, especially in a post-colonial society like this, and with the absence of transparency, accountability and regulation in every sector, one will see the abuses, scandals and controversies that have affected us all in recent times.

The initial legislation concerning charities regulation was brought forward in 2007, legislated for in 2009 but never implemented. The Government has been in office for three years but has simply sat on it. Níl rud ar bith déanta acu.

When Deputy Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister in February 2012 why the Government had not implemented the Bill, he was told it could not be done as there were too many financial and staffing difficulties, so the Act had to be deferred. The Minister also claimed that it was not the fact that charities were devoid of oversight. While I appreciate and applaud some of the steps the Minister has taken, the oversight referred to by him has been woefully inadequate. The culture of jobs for the boys, of golden circles and of elites has to be tackled. This recession will go. My main fear all the time, however, is that the fat cats, who never had a recession in the first place, will still be in charge when the recession is over. They will re-invent themselves, re-circle while the ordinary punters, whose kids have had to go to America, bear the brunt of the recession or, like in the case of my friend, Donnacha Rynne, be confined to bed for a year because a wheelchair is not available due to no money.

A starting point in tackling this would be the speedy and full implementation of the Charities Act. I do not buy the Government backbenchers’ claim that they have to wait for the human rights issue to be dealt with. That is not appropriate. We already know what piecemeal approaches bring to us.

A recent survey found one in five charities is facing a 10% dip in donations, even before the CRC scandal. It must be borne in mind that these charities are providing services which the State should be providing anyway. If the State was based genuinely on republican core values, these citizens with disabilities would have society shaped, ordered and organised to allow them to have the fullest life possible. It will only get worse if the Government keeps bringing in cuts and the public stops giving to charities because of the recent scandals.

I praise the charities made up of people who deeply care for the causes in which they are involved. Their integrity, honesty, generosity and their honour have been besmirched by those in the leadership of some of these agencies. Will the Minister reflect on this debate? It is above party politics. Will the Minister accept the regulation of charities needs to be dealt with now fully? Deputy Mac Lochlainn’s Bill is about achieving that.

Tonight’s Bill gives all Members an opportunity to address what is wrong with charities in this State. More importantly, it provides the means to bring about reform and to improve the climate that is facing the charity sector. I believe there is general agreement right across the benches in that regard. Since the financial crash, the charity and community sector has faced an avalanche of cuts and the lack of regulation in this area for so long has brought about some high-profile organisations' use and abuse of the private donations they receive. While most organisations do fantastic work, the shocking revelations about some organisations will be extremely damaging to the entire sector. The high wages the chief executive officers of some voluntary organisations have been paying themselves are appalling for most people in Irish society. It seems like an awful and persistent hangover from the so-called Celtic tiger days and has created a grand canyon between donors and those organisations they traditionally supported. This fear, coupled with the poor economic state, means that high-profile and well-run charities are struggling to meet rising demand with falling donations. The greedy actions of a few are a brutal betrayal of all those who donate to an organisation, as well as of those who work in the front-line services that the charity sector provides. The most outraged over these recent scandals are the common man and woman who donate to these organisations or those who work in this sector.

Moreover, many organisations in this sector have been calling for regulation for years, as charities have been unregulated since the foundation of the State. As speakers have stated over the past two nights, the Charities Act 2009, which would create a charities regulatory authority to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the sector, is urgently needed. This Bill before Members would re-introduce the advancement of human rights argued for by the sector but excluded by the Fianna Fáil-led Government when it brought forward the Charities Act 2009. It also specifies a date, namely, 31 May, for the full enforcement and enactment of all provisions of the 2009 Act.

As Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, I have seen at first hand the life-changing work Irish charities and non-governmental organisations, NGOs, do both on this island and in some of the most impoverished places around the world. Ireland is well known for its commitment to overseas aid and development and has a hard-won badge as a world leader in this sector. This is directly linked to the hard work of the NGOs and charities, as well as through the consistent generous donations of Irish people. The vast majority of these organisations are self-regulating and their commitment to accountability and transparency is due to their own commitment to providing the most effective aid and assistance programmes. For example, in 1993 a selection of Irish NGOs came together to form Dóchas, which provides these NGOs with a forum for consultation and co-operation and helps them to speak with a single voice on development issues. It also helps the NGOs to become more transparent and accountable and works towards ensuring that organisations in this sector follow the highest standards of practice. In fact, Dóchas members are fully compliant with the Accounting and Reporting by Charities: Statement of Recommended Practice, SORP, standards. While the SORP standards are British regulations and have no jurisdiction outside Britain, many Irish charities have voluntarily adopted them in order to follow respected practices in accounting and reporting and, most particularly, to satisfy their many stakeholders in this regard.

While their voluntary commitment to these practices definitely is to be welcomed, there also must be Government legislation across the charity sector to ensure the highest standards of practices and accountability. Lest Members forget, this is a huge sector, with more than 8,000 charities registered in this State employing more than 100,000 people. Moreover, as other speakers have noted, the sector has an estimated turnover of €5.7 billion a year. Consequently, any regulation needs to be transparent and fit for purpose. It cannot be done on the cheap or because of recent scandals that the Committee of Public Accounts has helped to uncover. The passing of legislation to regulate this sector and the establishment of a charity regulator must be financed, must have actual authority and, most importantly, must have independence.

One reason this sector is so big is because of consecutive Governments' disastrous record in health care, social protection, housing provision, poverty reduction and inequality in Irish society, and the lack of rights-based legislation. Nelson Mandela, who is badly missed, once stated: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity. It is an act of justice.” It would be well for all Members to reflect on this. They must regulate the charity sector but also must start to meet the basic needs and the realisation of their own citizens. This is the key. People are rightfully angry and many are worn out from trying to access services for loved ones. That debate has been heard in this Chamber many times. They are exhausted from filling out forms to get basic services for their children or family members. I believe the Bill being debated tonight will improve transparency as well as bringing clarity and new thinking to this sector. Most importantly, it will shine a light on those charlatans and parasites who are exploiting the goodwill and generosity of Irish people.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille agus tá moladh mór tuillte ag an Teachta Mac Lochlainn. Ceist tábhacht agus ceist atá i mbéal an phobail mar gheall ar an méid atá le cloisteáil i gcoistí an Oireachtais, sna páipéir, sna meáin agus an rud atá ag tarlú sa CRC agus áiteanna eile. Níl dabht ar bith go bhfuil dóigh níos fearr de dhíth faoi choinne cultúr níos foirfe ná a bhí ann go dtí seo ó thaobh na ngrúpaí carthanachta. Tá na grúpaí carthanachta ag iarraidh go mbeadh níos mó freagrachta ann, go mbeadh an reachtaíocht i bhfeidhm agus tá an pobal ag tabhairt tacaíochta leis sin. Caithfear an tAcht ó 2009 a chur i bhfeidhm go huile is go hiomlán. An sprioc atá ag Sinn Féin ná go mbeadh reachtaíocht de chuid an Teachta Mac Lochlainn i bhfeidhm. Cuirim fáilte roimh an méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire go mbeadh rialóir ann roimh an Cháisc. Sin páirt amháin ach tá cuid mhaith eile de dhíth. Mar a chítear sa reachtaíocht atá os ár gcomhair anocht, bhí bearnaí ann ó thaobh reachtaíochta de i 2009, go háirithe ó thaobh grúpaí a bhí ag obair ar son chearta daonna. Ba chóir é sin a cheartú agus is féidir é sin a dhéanamh trí thacaíocht a thabhairt don reachtaíocht seo.

There undoubtedly is a need for a more accountable culture, for which both the charities and the public are calling out. The Act of 2009 must be implemented and this Bill would force the Government to so do. While an unimplemented Act is of no use to anyone, I welcome the commitment given by the Government that a charities regulator will be established by Easter. However, this comprises only part of the solution, and the adoption of the legislation that has been drafted by Deputy Mac Lochlainn on behalf of the Sinn Féin party would be a welcome and major step towards bringing accountability to this culture. The charity sector is a large one and does some excellent work, but like all large sectors in the economy it needs regulation to be effective and to prevent it from being abused. However, unlike other large sectors, such as the banking sector in particular, there is no resistance from the charities sector towards regulation - indeed, the charities are demanding it. The sooner the Act is implemented in full, the better for all. The inclusion of human rights work as an eligible charitable function is worthy of everyone's support. Its omission from the Act must be rectified and I believe this Bill deserves the support of every Deputy in the Chamber this evening.

This debate is being held in the context of an almighty scandal that has been revealed in the media through committees of this House and which has gripped public attention in respect of what has been going on in some sections of the charitable sector. I say "some" because it is unfortunate that the fall-out from the scandal has affected all charities and the great work many of them have done. Moreover, it has affected those who depend on the work of those charities. The public was quite rightly shocked by the revelations that emerged regarding the culture of excessive pay and top-ups prevalent at the Central Remedial Clinic, CRC.

I have heard from all sides of this House, commentators, Independents and those from political parties right up to Cabinet level saying this should not have happened and that Mr. Kiely should return the money that was paid to him. It is worth noting that some of that money no longer resides with Mr. Kiely because some of it was taxable and the Revenue collected approximately €130,000 of Mr. Kiely's €740,000 pay-off. It would be an important step for the Government to indicate tonight that the money collected by the Friends and Supporters of the CRC, which was never intended to line Mr. Kiely's pockets or the coffers of the Revenue, should be returned to the Friends and Supporters of the CRC so the services for which they raised that money can continue to be provided. It would be a small step but it would be a first step for us towards trying to recoup the overall costs of the diversion of that much needed charitable fund-raising money to an area where it should never have gone. It would be welcome if the Minister were to announce such an initiative tonight.

The CRC debacle points to a larger problem of poor corporate governance, an unhealthy culture in some bodies and undoubtedly to a cosy golden circle of appointees close to certain political parties. TASC has published detailed research on the need for a more transparent system of public appointments. Its 2010 report, Mapping the Golden Circle, shows in detail how a cosy consensus exists and how corporate governance is in need of drastic modernisation and improvement. That report showed that in the heyday of the Celtic tiger, among 40 of Ireland's largest companies a "director network" of 39 individuals held multiple directorships on at least two boards across 33 of the 40 companies examined. These represented one in 14 of the total group of directors serving on these boards during the period under review. Even now this culture prevails. As we have seen with the banks there is a persistent and obscene culture of high pay among executives and, in the case of the banks, no political desire to rock the boat.

There is still a lack of diversity in the executive levels. Very few women are breaking through the glass ceiling and governance suffers as a result. Another issue is individuals holding multiple directorships across companies or bodies. Each of these issues must be tackled head on and a proper republican culture of merit should win through. That is the challenge before us, and this Government should support this Bill as a small first step. We must end the old boys' club in every aspect of our society. A rotten culture of cronyism has been allowed develop and has been left unchallenged for far too long. Again I ask the Minister to instruct the Revenue to return the €130,000 bagged by it from Mr. Kiely's top-up and pay it back to the Friends and Supporter of the CRC. Nobody in this House believes that payment was right and it definitely should not have come from people who were out on the streets collecting for services.

Tá sé thar am Bille mar seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Throughout the history of this State charitable and voluntary organisations have been instrumental and central to the provision of essential services and supports. These works have served both the wider population and smaller groups of people with special needs not served by the State. This State has always been in deficit when it comes to meeting the needs of its people whether in education, health care or even the social safety net that keeps food in the cupboard and a roof over one's head. Charitable organisations have stepped into this breach and done work the State would not do. In a better world, much of the work of charities would be provided by the State rendering some groups much less necessary. Unfortunately, the State has exploited charitable organisations to shirk its duties. This State owes charities quite a debt in some respects. One such debt is the proper regulation of charities to ensure as long as charity is needed that good charities thrive and bad ones wither.

In my brief as Sinn Féin spokesperson on housing I see the great work done by organisations like Simon, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust and many others. They serve hot meals to those who have been left with nothing. As Government policy throws people out on the street they have bent over backwards to accommodate more people. Groups like these are operating at maximum capacity but still are trying to improve. They have in recent years stepped up fund-raising to support this. I doubt anyone did not encounter someone raising money for one of these groups over the Christmas period. They deserve to be trusted and this recent scandal has hurt them and other worthy causes.

We like to repeat the line that Ireland is a very charitable country and this is true but we are a country sick and tired of cronyism and people lining their pockets. It is especially galling to see people living the high life on money raised to support children with disabilities. It is especially galling when the people doing it are linked to a party which brought this country to its knees and caused so much recent hardship to families dealing with disabilities. Those who are found to have misappropriated or misused funds should as much as possible be made to feel the full force of the law. This is not just the right thing for these wrong-doings but the right way to try to rebuild confidence in the public so they can donate without fear of their money being wasted on top-ups and foreign getaways.

The CRC, a really fine organisation which has helped so many people, has been damaged by the actions of these few people and we must ensure that kind of behaviour is stamped out for once and all. The needs of service users must come first. The Minister for Health and the HSE need to assess how the CRC can be reformed to provide services and make the best use of public money to win back public trust. The Irish people are shocked and disgusted at the greed and the gross abuse of trust at executive level in the CRC. It begs the question how the board could allow this and think nothing is wrong. It is not lost on them that people with physical disabilities are struggling to get access to vital therapies and other services. The entire management and structure of the CRC needs to be reviewed and changed to ensure every cent is directed towards the provision of services.

In my area we have a fantastic organisation which works with and for people with disabilities and their families. The work they do and the help and support they provide makes the difference to families between living and just barely surviving. In the last five years, €12.3 million has been cut from the funding of St. Michael's House. This has dramatically reduced the service's ability to cater to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. They continue to do great work but each year they have had to cut their cloth closer and closer. They have done all they can to save money but are still being asked to do more with less. The money thrown away by the unscrupulous people at the top of the CRC or the doctors at top levels in public hospitals would have gone a long way to helping the families of St. Michael's House.

That money might have helped to stop the reductions in staffing levels; outsourcing of its residential and respite service; closure of the service one Sunday of every month; cessation of rent subsidy in residential services; cessation of paying trainee allowances; reduction in transport meaning staff and families have to provide their own; moratorium on offering new residential places or long-term placement in respite beds; and reduction in day services for school and training centre leavers from 2013. When we make changes, we take an extra holiday away from a well-paid person who is supposed to be doing a public service. When we allow it to continue, we are denying essential services to people who need them most.

The sad part of this is that people, staff, volunteers and donors are demoralised and badly wounded. We must give confidence back to all by putting in place the proper regulations to ensure this does not happen again.

It is difficult to understand the mindset of people, not just in charities but in society in general, who believe they have a God-given right to earn huge wages, receive massive bonuses and have gold-plated pensions. It is high time some semblance of reality was brought to bear on these people.

I commend all those in many of our charities who have worked tirelessly to deliver the services we have today. That is the reason this Bill should be supported by everyone, irrespective of political affiliation. Go raibh maith agaibh. Táim ag lorg tacaíochta ó ghach pháirtí sa Teach.

I am pleased to address the House on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. On behalf of the Minister, I thank all who have taken part in the debate on this important matter.

The need to strengthen the regulation of the charitable sector has been impressed on all of us by the recent disturbing revelations regarding the use of charitable funds at the Central Remedial Clinic. In the course of addressing the Bill introduced by Deputy Mac Lochlainn, the Minister set out yesterday his plans for the establishment of a charities regulatory authority under the provisions of the Charities Act 2009. This week, he will issue a call for expressions of interest for membership of the board of the new authority with a view to filling board positions before Easter. Sanction has been received from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to fill the position of CEO of the new authority and a number of other administrative posts on an interim basis from within existing resources. Arrangements are in hand to fill these posts by the end of February. A key focus of the new authority in its initial phase of operation will be the preparation for publication of a new comprehensive statutory register of charities. This register, together with the reporting provisions of the Act that will apply to registered charities, will provide the essential infrastructure to strengthen transparency and accountability across the sector.

Many contributors to this debate have highlighted how important it is that charity funds are used efficiently and to the benefit of the work of the charity. Donors to charities have a right to know how their donations are being used and to feel confident that they are being used for the purpose for which they were given. This is a sentiment wholeheartedly shared by the Government and, I am sure, every Member of this House. It is crucial that we have full transparency in regard to the accounting and use of charity funds, whatever their origin. While there is some level of oversight in the area, a complete regulatory architecture will be in place only when the Charities Act is fully implemented.

The Charities Act provides that each registered charity must provide a report each year to the charities regulatory authority on its activities. The authority will make these reports available to the public. This measure will represent a tangible increase in the transparency of the charity sector and will help donors to make informed decisions about the charities they support.

We have all been shocked by the disclosures about the use of charity funds by the Central Remedial Clinic. We are all agreed that such a situation should never be repeated. We are all concerned at reports of the impact these disclosures have had on donations to charity. I agree with those contributors who said that not all charities abuse their position. The majority of charities provide worthwhile services and they ensure that donations go directly to the people for whom they are intended. It is unfortunate that the few that do not have such a negative impact on the other charities. Undoubtedly, many well run charities are experiencing the adverse effects of this scandal. Trust and confidence in our charities has been damaged and must be rebuilt. It is incumbent on each of us as leaders in our community to ensure this trust is rebuilt.

The key thing the Government can do to help with this task is to put in place the necessary structures to implement the Charities Act as it stands and as set out before the House yesterday by the Minister for Justice and Equality. For the reasons given by the Minister yesterday evening, the Government will oppose this Bill, but that is not to say the Bill was frivolous or not worth debating. It was well worth debating. In saying this, however, the Minister has asked me to state that he appreciates the opportunity given by Deputy Mac Lochlainn in tabling this Bill for Members of the House to address the real concerns that have arisen with regard to certain charities and afford to Members of the House an opportunity to address recent revelations.

Almost every Sinn Féin speaker here has suggested somehow or other that the disability sector - the sector of which I have most knowledge - is solely dependent on charitable donations, but that is not true. This State gives €6.4 billion of taxpayers' moneys to disability services in this country.

They are entitled to it.

I do not say otherwise. This money is provided for the delivery of services to people with disabilities. What people give in charitable donations serves as a top-up to those services, but not to the CEOs. This distinction was not made by some charities. There is a way for charities to ensure there is greater transparency. I do not understand why boards do not include service users or those who represent them. This should be part and parcel of what they do. We should insist that this happens and I have endeavoured to do this with all boards I have appointed.

I commend my colleague Deputy Mac Lochlainn on his introduction of this Bill, which adds our party's voice to the demand that Government regulate the charity sector. I agree with the Minister of State that, undoubtedly, the majority of charities act properly. Even in those cases in which board members or executives have been found wanting, the staff providing the services within those charities have also acted properly and take great pride in the service they deliver, in the case of the Central Remedial Clinic, to people with disabilities.

However, it should not have taken a scandal such as that of the CRC or the exposure of top-up payments to hospital and agency chiefs to spur the Government or the previous one into action. I cannot understand why Government parties intend to vote against our Bill this evening, as it simply calls for the full implementation of the 2009 legislation. Last night, the Minister for Justice and Equality described the Charities Act as an important legislative milestone in this State but, to be blunt, until its provisions are implemented, the Charities Act is not worth the paper on which it is written. The term "legislative milestone" may sound good in this Chamber, but unless a legislative milestone is converted into action, it means little to the outside world. The Minister has cited costs as a barrier to implementing the Act in full. I put it to Government Deputies that they and we cannot afford not to implement the Charities Act 2009 in full.

I do not understand why Governments must wait until things go belly-up, whether in regard to the care of our most vulnerable citizens of the spending of public moneys on them, before putting the necessary checks and balances into the system. Why must public confidence be rocked to its core and untold damage done before it steps up to the plate? I am interested in hearing from the Government the full cost of implementing the 2009 legislation. Let us have the figures. What is the annual saving to the State due to not implementing the legislation in full? If there truly is a concern in regard to cost, let the Government come to us with the figures and let us have that debate.

I believe this House could and should send a message tonight to citizens that we hear their outrage and their hurt. We should stand together united in our commitment that the 2009 legislation will be implemented in full. Last week, the Committee of Public Accounts learned that €700,000 from the funds of the Friends and Supporters of the CRC, gathered by charitable donation, was used to top up the pension pot of the former CEO.

The golden handshake in this case was approved by the board under what seemed to be a cloud of secrecy. The former chairman of the Central Remedial Clinic, Mr. Hamilton Goulding, stated in an interview over the weekend he had been unable to cut Mr. Kiely's annual salary of €240,000. I find this an astonishing statement and further evidence that the scandal at the CRC, like the public's outrage, runs much deeper than originally anticipated. Initially the investigation of the Committee of Public Accounts revolved around compliance by the Central Remedial Clinic and other section 38 agencies with public pay policy. What we uncovered, despite efforts to mislead the committee, was a systemic culture of entitlement of the few to the detriment and at the cost of the many. What we have learned to date is truly shocking, but let it be said what we have yet to uncover may prove worse. We do not know as yet.

My office has been inundated with e-mails, calls and letters from citizens throughout the country who are angry, upset and really hurt by the revelations about the CRC. I am sure it is the same for other Deputies. Charities have consistently called for regulation of the sector and the Government's refusal to do so has compounded the sense of hurt and outrage. It is the families who rely on the services of organisations such as the CRC who are most devastated by the revelations.

The scandal exposes fundamental faults in how the State delivers non-acute health supports and services to citizens; therefore, it is not simply a matter of public pay policy. It is about good governance, ethics, organisational culture and the role and responsibility of management. It seems that in many instances since the foundation of the State successive Governments have looked to others to do their job for them, be it in education, health or housing. For decades the Establishment parties have outsourced the care of citizens. With the religious orders of old or the modern manifestation of section 38 and 39 agencies, the State has actively sought to put responsibility for these services at arm's length. We have learned that money was paid out without the accountability associated with direct State provision. It is timely for a substantive debate on how the Government takes on this very obvious faultline in the public health system, in particular.

We need to be clear that the CRC is not the end of the story. In fact, it may prove just to be the beginning. The information brought forward in the Dáil last night by the Minister for Justice and Equality on the Rehab Group was very troubling. It requires a considered response from the group's board and management, not the type of knee-jerk and deeply inadequate statement issued by Rehab this morning. At this stage we cannot and should not take a conclusive view of management's or the board's probity. However, information already in the public domain should give us real cause for concern. This evening the Committee of Public Accounts, on foot of the information made available by the Minister, has written to Rehab, the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE seeking further information.

Speaking recently, Ms Angela Kerins, CEO of Rehab, argued that she was not subject to HSE pay ceilings and cited the fact that 60% of the group's activities were commercial, as they are. She subsequently refused to give details of her salary package. Based on the information in the public domain on the issue of pay, it seems Rehab is walking two roads at the same time, which seems to be a theme in many of these agencies. Rehab's income for 2012 was €183 million, one third of which came from public moneys, with another 10% from charitable sources. Ms Kerins cannot have things both ways. Rehab Group management has actively sought to adhere to public sector pay policy but only when it comes to cutting the pay of staff working in the organisation. In early 2010 Rehab cut workers' pay in line with the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act. The case made its way to the Labour Court where Rehab management argued very vigorously that the group had clear links with public service rates of pay and pay movements. When it comes to the staff of Rehab, management applies public sector pay policy or seeks to do so but not when it comes to the pay of the CEO. This troubles me and it is a question we need to raise with it.

We have heard much in recent times - certainly at the hearings with the CRC at the Committee of Public Accounts - which points to a culture or sense of entitlement among some in society, not least some of those who serve on these boards. As the Minister stated, people make donations to charity in good faith. They do so as an act of human solidarity with others and donations, however large or small, must go towards the purposes for which they were intended. I agree with the Minister that trust and confidence in charities have been hugely damaged and need to be rebuilt. The Minister of State has told us that the Government cannot afford to implement the Charities Bill in full, but to this Sinn Féin states it cannot afford not to do so.

I wish to deal with the reasons given yesterday by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, and reiterated today by the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, with regard to the human rights issue. I am very disappointed and it is a missed opportunity that it will not be incorporated into the Charities Act 2009. The reasons given are to do with technical issues for Revenue, but every year the Finance Act introduces a range of technical changes to deal with issues such as this; therefore, it is doable if there was the will to do it. Yesterday the Minister spoke about the five year review built into the Act, but we have waited five years for the Act to be implemented. It will not be implemented this year and is suggested it could be another five years before human rights will be incorporated. That is not acceptable.

I must remind the Minister of State that her colleague, Deputy Joe Costello, is now the Minister of State with responsibility for trade and development and promoting Ireland's track record in human rights. He works with organisations in advancing human rights in Ireland and abroad, particularly abroad, and deals with our overseas aid, of which we are very proud. Per capita we are among the top countries in the world. How can we not include the advancement of human rights in the definition of charitable purposes when one considers all of this? In 2009 the Minister of State, Deputy Joe Costello, enthusiastically argued for the inclusion of human rights in the Bill, but now the Labour Party will vote against this Bill, about which I am disappointed. I do not want to turn it into a big disgrace issue, but I am disappointed and believe the Minister of State knows this is not right. The President, Michael D. Higgins, a man with a huge reputation in promoting human rights, someone of whom we are all very proud and who is internationally renowned and respected, as one can see when he visits various countries representing Ireland, also argued in favour of the inclusion of human rights in the definition of charitable purposes. I do not understand why the amendment cannot be accepted.

The idea of regulating the charity sector did not come about in 2009. Those who have served in the House for a long time know the debate has taken place for many years. One Fine Gael Member recalled debating the issue in 2003. We know for a long time that this needs to happen and that the charity sector is not adequately regulated.

However, there was considerable consultation with the charity sector prior to the publication of the Charities Bill in 2009 and it finally seemed that there would be regulation. The then Government dragged its feet for cost reasons and regulation did not happen. The current Government also did not proceed with it for cost reasons. That was a huge mistake. I fervently believe we would not be debating the CRC and the Rehab Group debacle if that had been done. The Minister chose to put on record matters of profound concern during this debate. I reiterate the calls on those running the Rehab Group to answer questions. They may well have satisfactory explanations regarding what was revealed and I hope they do but they need to answer these questions and restore people's faith.

The Government parties have dragged their feet and there is a crisis in the charity sector. As many Members said, more importantly, this is about our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and disabled and those who are sick or ill. All of us have supported charities. They are being damaged by the actions of a few. If regulation had been in place, those actions would not have happened. While it is highly unlikely, I ask the Government to seriously support our Bill. The Minister suggested his Bill could be implemented towards the end of 2014. We should be clear that the legislation is not only about a charities regulator; it is also about a register of charities, the charities appeal tribunal and the consultative panels. A range of infrastructure is required to implement this legislation and not just a regulator.

The regulator is the first task.

That announcement was welcome but we will monitor progress closely. We will table parliamentary questions and we will raise this issue again and again in the House until all the legislative provisions have been implemented. If the Government parties takes the decision to vote our Bill down, we will hold them to account throughout the year. We will pursue this legislation until it is enacted to make sure all of us send a message to the public that the days of the CRC golden handshakes and the other issues that emerged are over and they can have full confidence in the sector to represent them again. I hope that even at the last minute the Government will seriously consider supporting the Bill. There is no good reason to vote it down other than it was tabled by Sinn Féin. I do not understand that because that is not right.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 43; Níl, 80.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Lyons, John.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared lost.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23 January 2014.