Oireachtas report recommends charitable status for human rights groups

Senator Katherine Zappone, report rapporteur
Senator Katherine Zappone, report rapporteur

An Oireachtas sub-committee has recommended revising the Charities Act 2009 to include “the advancement of human rights” in its list of charitable purpose.

The sub-Committee on Human Rights relative to Justice and Equality Matters made the recommendation in a new report commissioned five years after the Act came into operation.

Senator Katherine Zappone, acting as report rapporteur, said: “This Report was motivated by the fact that I and my colleagues on the sub-committee were concerned that the Charities Act 2009 omitted the ‘advancement of human rights’ as a definition of charitable purpose, thereby excluding most human rights organisations from what is legally recognised as the charitable sector.

“This is a serious omission and one that we believe should be remedied as soon as possible. Consequently, the sub-Committee undertook an examination of this omission and have concluded that now is the time to amend the Charities Act 2009, so that human rights organisations have the opportunity to be recognised as part of the charitable sector, to apply for charitable status, and thereby be supported to ensure proper regulation of their governance, structure and work.

“This report is an example of the significance of parliamentary oversight of human rights issues and obligations. Acknowledging the importance of and being inclusive of human rights is compatible with international law and convention that Ireland already accedes to – amending the Charities Act would only further solidify this commitment.”

David Stanton, chair of the sub-committee, added: “Many countries recognise the promotion of human rights as a charitable purpose.

“Amending the law to reflect this would insure greater transparency across the charities sector and would demonstrate Ireland’s ongoing commitment to the advancement and promotion of human rights.”

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