The proposal to cut the size of the Charities Regulatory Authority and to introduce annual registration fees for charities was approved at a July Cabinet meeting, according to Principle Officer at the Charities Regulation Unit Úna Ní Dhubhghaill.

The decision to scale down the incoming regulator was made in a time of ‘forced retrenchment in public spending on a historically massive scale.’ She said.

Ms Ní Dhubhghaill was speaking at Boardmatch Ireland’s National Federations Lunch in mid-October, which was attended by the main representative bodies in the Irish not-for-profit sector.

Addressing the crowd in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, Ms Ní Dhubhghaill told attendees that the re-sized Regulator would now have ‘a staff of perhaps 20’ and that part of the cost of running the new regulatory body would be covered by the sector in the form of annual registration fees.

“These proposals were approved by Government at a cabinet meeting in July and are the basis for the work we are now doing.”

Ms Ní Dhubhghaill also told attendees that establishing the Register of Charities would take priority for the new Charities Regulation Unit, and that other provisions under the Charities Act 2009 would follow once the Register was fully established.

“It was clear from the responses to the consultation that many within the sector viewed the establishment of the Register as the overriding priority and crucial first step. It is only when the register is in place that many of the other provisions of the act can be brought into force.” She said.

In 2011, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter announced the postponement of Charities Regulatory Authority due to insufficient Government resources, and instead appealed to the sector to sign-up to the various voluntary Codes of Practice.

The new regulatory framework is finally on the horizon and ‘heralds many significant changes for the sector” said Ms Ní Dhubhghaill.

Amongst other provisions, charities will be required to report annually to the new Regulator and for the first time, organisations that wish to continue to operate as a charity under the new framework, must be deemed eligible for registration by the Regulator.

“In effect, what this means is that for the first time ever there will be a formal marker of charitable status…This is a profound change. It cannot be right that anyone can simply set up an organisation and call it a charity – to be a ‘charity’ requires more than that.”

Ms Ní Dhubhghaill concluded her briefing by asking the sector to ‘bear with’ the new Unit during this time of change and appealed to them to stay engaged in the process.

“It will take time to make this new system of regulation a reality. And throughout the process we are going to continue to need the input of organisations such as yours through dialogue and consultation, both formal and informal.”