Belfast Telegraph

1,100 Northern Ireland charities linked to Troubles

By Suzanne Breen

More than one in five charities in Northern Ireland is engaged in activities related to the Troubles, a shocking new report has revealed.

A staggering 21% of local charities are focused on issues linked to our past.

In comparison, only 2% concentrate on promoting animal welfare.

The report, released by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, shows how 18 years after the Good Friday Agreemen, even our charity sector remains preoccupied with conflict-linked matters.

A total of 17% of all registered charities (883) list their activities as including 'cross border/cross community' work.

Seven per cent (345) list their beneficiaries as including 'interface communities', and 4% (213) are run for ex-offenders and prisoners.

While there is some crossover between the three areas, a total of 1,105 charities here are involved in work linked to the Troubles.

The combined income of charities registered since 2013 stands at just over £1bn - comparable to around 10% of the annual budget available to the DUP-Sinn Fein administration at Stormont.

The research also reveals a huge focus on local, as opposed to international, issues. A total of 51% of charities work across Northern Ireland, with 45% focusing solely on their own council area.

Surprisingly, only 8% work internationally in countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Thailand and Zimbabwe. While 8% of local charities work across Ireland, only half that number (4%) are active in Britain.

The report, compiled from the registration details of charities gathered to mark three years of compulsory charity registration, provides a never-seen-before snapshot of the charity sector here.

A total of 44% of charities have stated as their purposes to advance 'citizenship or community development', while 13% are established to advance 'human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity'. In contrast only 2% of Northern Ireland-registered charities list their purpose as 'the advancement of animal welfare'; 7% the advancement of amateur sport; and 7% the advancement of environmental protection or improvement.

A total of 18% of charities are focused on promoting the arts, culture, heritage or science; 21% on preventing or relieving poverty, with 22% dedicated to advancing health or saving lives; and 28% on promoting religion.

The report also shows the huge income gap between the top and bottom charities. Almost three-quarters of charities (72%) have an income of £100,000 or less.

One-third of these have an income of £10,000 or less, and 24% have an income of £5,000 or less.

However, at the top end of the scale, 7% of charities bring in more than £500,000 a year - with a massive average income of £2.5m.

The research also shows a geographic imbalance in the location of charities. Co Antrim -which includes Belfast - is home to the most charities (44%), despite having only 34% of the population.

By comparison, only 21% of charities are located in Co Down which boasts 29% of our population.

Unlike other sectors, there is a very balanced gender split at the top of our charities with 50.1% males and 49.9% females making up Northern Ireland's charity trustees.

A total of 63% of trustees are aged over 50, with 5% of charity trustees being under the age of 30.

While the registration process is ongoing, with 5,300 charities registered out of an estimated total of up to 17,500, the information currently held by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland provides never-before available information about the sector.

Releasing the report, the Commission's chief executive Frances McCandless said: "Charity registration has enabled us to put together this previously unseen picture of charities in Northern Ireland, revealing the extent to which charities operate here, their income, their governance, and their focus.

"We hope that the report can be of use to the sector, to the general public and to Government."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph