McGrath named as Northern Ireland Charity Commission chair

Five-year position for new chief commissioner

The former chair of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has become the first chair of the Northern Ireland Charity Commission, which has been formally launched this morning.

Tom McGrath, who will be known as chief commissioner, has also chaired the Northern Ireland Business Education Partnership and the George Best Memorial Trust, and is a former director of international Irish network the Ireland Funds. He will be paid £5,000 a year.

His deputy will be Patricia Sloan, director of BBC Children In Need in Northern Ireland and former chief executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. She will be paid £3,000 a year. Both she and McGrath have been appointed for five years.

The legislation establishing the commission was passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly last summer but there have been repeated delays in recruiting commissioners. The legislation also institutes a register of charities and statutory definitions of charitable activity.

Four charity commissioners have also been appointed, who will each be paid £2,000 a year. They are Paul Cavanagh, a former employee of Save the Children, Gingerbread and the North West Community Network; Angela Chada, executive director of Irish children's charity Springboard; Philip McDonagh, a senior management consultant and chief economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Walter Rader, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch event in Belfast, Margaret Ritchie, Northern Ireland's social development minister, said establishing a charity commission had brought the province into step with the rest of the UK. "We have had what at best could be described as light touch regulation," she said. "I have sought to change this and to provide reassurance and confidence for charities and for the giving public."

McGrath said the charity commissioners would attempt to regulate without hindering charities' work. "Rather, we should where possible seek to encourage and support that work within the context of our legal responsibilities," he said.

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