Northern Ireland sector 'in desperate need' of resolution to political crisis

Nora Smith, head of the charity chief executives body CO3, says that 589 days without a government has left charities in a state of uncertainty

Stormont (Photograph: Getty Images)
Stormont (Photograph: Getty Images)

The charity sector in Northern Ireland is in "desperate need" of a resolution to the political crisis after the region broke the record for consecutive days without a government, according to the head of the charity chief executives body CO3.

Northern Ireland marked 589 days without a government yesterday – a record for a democracy – and Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3, said this had left charities in the region in an uncertain situation, especially when planning their finances.

"We all work in a very challenging environment, but it's becoming more and more frustrating to be in a leadership role on the ground in the community," Smith said.

"Charities need to plan for the future, but many don't know where the finance for their important and often life-changing work will be coming from.

"If they're lucky, some charities will be planned financially for the next year – but after that, they'll be in the dark."

She added that charities were beginning to get frustrated and warned of a lack of accountability from having civil servants make decisions on behalf of the region rather than elected representatives.

"It's disheartening, and the sense of frustration in the charity sector is growing on a daily basis," said Smith. "We are in desperate need of something to move things forward.

"We need politicians to start acting on behalf of the country, not of their own political interests, and put the needs of the people first.

"Maybe it's time for the secretary of state to make more decisions, though there's still the issue of accountability."

She also warned that the region was being left with "no voice at the table" during Brexit negotiations, with a lot of local charities reliant on EU funding.

Last month CO3’s third sector index, which it runs with Ulster Bank, said that 76 per cent of charity leaders did not want the current political situation to remain in place, and 65 per cent felt that political instability in Northern Ireland would worsen over the next year.

Belgium held the previous record for the longest time a democracy has gone without a government.

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