Trust defends decision to give money to charity linked with banned terrorist group

The Times criticised the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for handing grants worth almost £275,000 to Teach na Fáilte, which the newspaper said was founded by a political party linked to the Irish National Liberation Army

The JRCT statement
The JRCT statement

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has defended its decision to fund a Northern Irish charity with links to a banned terrorist group.

JRCT was criticised in an article in The Times newspaper this weekend about two grants totalling almost £275,000 that it made to Teach Na Fáilte in 2014 and 2017.

The Times said Teach Na Fáilte was founded by the Irish Republican Socialist Party, which it describes as the political wing of the Irish National Liberation Army, the proscribed terrorist group believed to be responsible for a number of murders, including that of the Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Airey Neave in 1979.

But in a statement, the JRCT defended the grants, saying the INLA had declared its armed struggle over in 2009 and decommissioned its weapons in 2010, and Teach Na Fáilte had "been a key player in the INLA ceasefire and decommissioning process".

The statement said the JRCT had no relationship with any armed groups or proscribed organisations, including the INLA, and that its Northern Ireland grant committee included experts from different sections of the community.

The grants to Teach Na Fáilte, the statement said, were for a project to "support peacebuilding, dialogue and conflict transformation strategies".

The JRCT said: "We are content with the progress being made by the project, which is subject to strict monitoring processes by the trust."

Teach na Fáilte was "undertaking important transitional peace-building work" and had recently begun a new collaborative project funded by the EU, the JRCT said.

"Our demilitarisation funding is for those groups which are committed to tackling the legacy of conflict-related violence and are seeking ways to bring about positive change in their communities," the JRCT statement said.

"Our funding portfolio includes work with groups transitioning from violence in loyalist and republican communities."

Michelle Russell, director of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "Charities should be able to explain and justify their funding decisions. We have asked the charity to do this."

The commission previously engaged with the JRCT in 2015 about its funding of Cage, an advocacy group that became mired in controversy for its involvement with the late Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State militant and British citizen nicknamed Jihadi John.

The commission sought assurances that the JRCT would not fund the group in the future, but was forced to acknowledge it had no power to make such a request after Cage applied for a judicial review of the move.

In its case report published in May 2016, the commission said it believed the JRCT trustees had acted in good faith in funding Cage but their monitoring processes were inadequate.

In an accompanying statement today, the commission spokeswoman said: "We have sought a response from the charity to the concerns raised, and to ensure we are satisfied that the charity is complying with the regulatory advice we provided as part of our previous engagement and the commission’s published guidance on making grants."

Teach na Fáilte is recognised as a charitable body by HM Revenue & Customs, but has not yet completed registration with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

A CCNI spokeswoman said the organisation had been called forward to apply for charity registration in June, so it had three months from then to comply.

She said the commission could not confirm whether it was investigating Teach Na Fáilte, because it "would not wish to discourage any parties from coming forward with confidential concerns or information about a charity, or prejudice any current or potential investigation".

The Times article also mentioned a £550,000 JRCT grant to the human rights charity Just Yorkshire, which published a report accusing the Labour MP Sarah Champion of "industrial-scale racism" over comments she made about the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

The commission confirmed it had already opened a compliance case into Just Yorkshire before The Times report came out, after receiving complaints about the charity.

The JRCT said in a statement that it did "not necessarily agree with every action or statement of those that we have funded".

No one from Teach na Fáilte was available for comment. Just Yorkshire declined to comment.

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