The Charities Regulatory Authority was established on 16 October, 2014 pursuant to the Charities Act 2009. The general function of the Regulator is to regulate charitable organisations operating in Ireland, in order to increase public trust and confidence in their management and administration. Under the 2009 Act, the Charities Regulator is fully independent in the performance of its statutory functions.
Under the current Act, certain bodies are excluded from being registered Irish charities. The list of excluded bodies set out in section 2(1) of the Charities Act 2009, includes: a political party; a body that promotes a political party or candidate; and a body that promotes a political cause that does not relate directly to the advancement of the body’s charitable purpose.
A registered charity may engage in activities to promote a political cause provided that the promotion of this cause:
- relates directly to the advancement of the charity’s charitable purpose;
- does not promote a political party or candidate;
- is not contrary to the charity’s governing document.
The Charities Regulator published a guidance document in February 2018 to assist charities in this regard. The document contains a number of illustrative examples to show how charities can promote political causes as part of their work to advance their charitable purpose. It also provides examples of the kinds of situations in which charities could potentially find themselves in breach of their legal obligations by engaging in certain political activities.
The ‘Guidance on Charities and the Promotion of Political Causes’ is available on the Charities Regulator website www.charitiesregulator.ie
There is ongoing liaison between officials in my Department and the Charities Regulator to review the operation of the legislation to ensure that it is operating effectively. While my Department is currently working with the Regulator on proposed amendments to the Act, there are no plans currently to amend the section concerned.