Promotion of human rights left out of bill

Irish voluntary sector disappointed by omission in new Charities Bill

The Irish government has rejected last-minute pleas from politicians and sector bodies to include the promotion of human rights as a charitable purpose in the country's Charities Bill, which is expected to become law this week.

When it is enacted, the bill will introduce explicit definitions of charitable purpose into Irish law for the first time and create a regulatory authority, a charities register and an appeals tribunal.

The promotion of human rights was included in the original version of the bill but was removed in Ireland's upper house, the Seanad, because it is not recognised in Irish common law as a charitable purpose.

During last week's final reading of the bill in the Dail, the lower house, John Curran, minister of state at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, said the bill was intended only to regulate the status quo.

He said many of the activities of human rights organisations, such as poverty relief and conflict resolution, were listed as charitable. He added that every organisation currently recognised as charitable by Ireland's tax authorities would automatically be included on the new charities register.

The Wheel, the umbrella organisation for Irish charities, said it was disappointed by the omission. The presumption of public benefit for religious charities will also be removed.

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