Charities campaigning in the run up to Assembly elections must remain independent, advises regulator
As the battle for seats in the run up to the Assembly elections heats up, Northern Ireland’s charity regulator has reminded charities that they must remain politically independent.
While charities in Northern Ireland may engage with the election process in a number of ways, under the law a charity can only carry out political activity or campaigning, provided:
- the activity is solely in support of its charitable purposes
- the activity is not prohibited in its governing document
- it remains independent and does not align itself with a particular political party or politician
- it is in the charity’s best interests and the trustees are acting with due care.
A charity that engages in political activity in the run up to an election or a referendum may also be required to register with the Electoral Commission.
To support understanding of the law in this area, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has today urged any charities undertaking, or considering engaging in, campaigning and politically focused activities to first read their Charities and politics guidance, available below.
CCNI EG036 Charities and politics
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Chief Charity Commissioner Tom McGrath, explained: “Campaigning can be an effective way for a charity to support its charitable purposes, with many charities using political activities to successfully influence public policy.
“However, the guiding principle of charity law in terms of political activity is that charities should be, and be seen to be, independent of party politics, which includes never supporting or favouring one candidate or party for election.
“This is perhaps particularly important in the run up to an election, when charities must take extra care to ensure they are independent and do not align with a political party or individual politicians.
“To support charities understanding of this often complex area, as well as to help them make the right decisions, I would encourage all charities to read our Charities and politics guidance.”
The Commission’s Charities and politics guidance is available above or from the Charity essentials section of the Commission’s website here.
For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Commission for Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland, established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
A non-departmental public body, the Commission is sponsored by the Department for Social Development and has a number of legal functions where it uses powers similar to those of the High Court.