Make sure your vote counts for Irish charities
Hundreds of local, European candidates have signed the Community Matters pledge
Representatives from some of Ireland’s leading charities and The Wheel, outside Dublin City Council offices on Wood Quay. File photograph: Tom Honan
On Friday we will be voting to elect representatives to both the European Parliament and local government.
In recent weeks, as prospective candidates have been having conversations on doorsteps across the country, they have heard about the biggest issues they will need to address in their coming five-year terms – issues such as housing and homelessness, diversity and integration, education, climate change, disability rights and gender equality.
All of these issues have one thing in common: they are the focus of the activity of thousands of charities, community and voluntary groups, and social enterprises across Ireland.
Small organisations in particular struggle to provide the matching funding required to qualify for grants
These organisations range from international NGOs and large national charities to small groups of volunteers and activists working at a grassroots level. They are working daily at the coalface in our communities.
In light of the fact that the charity and voluntary sector contributes so much to the issues we value as voters, it is worth considering what these groups are looking for from the next batch of public representatives, when you go cast your vote.
Local politicians are well placed to appreciate and understand the challenges facing small organisations and can work to encourage local authorities to develop funding policies more supportive of the sector.
A key issue facing the sector is the absence of multiannual funding, which means that community and voluntary organisations are unable to plan strategically for the long term.
Councillors could work with local authorities to ensure that existing and new funding schemes are made available on a multiannual basis that would allocate funding on a three or five-year periods.
This will make planning the work of these organisations more effective. Councillors can also work to ensure that the supports available through their Local Enterprise Office are extended to community and voluntary organisations who are contributing to the local community.
We are a nation of caring and generous people and we have a proud history of philanthropy and volunteerism
At the European level, grants are often awarded on the basis that the organisation can match the money being provided. Small organisations in particular struggle to provide the matching funding required to qualify for grants.
MEPs can engage with government to support the development of a national fund that would support these applications – thus maximising the number of European funding schemes t the sector could benefit from. Ireland is losing out because of the lack of match funding.
Scope of services
In this way, Ireland and the sector would benefit together as it would increase European investment in the sector so as to increase the scope of services and supports these organisations can deliver.
MEPs could encourage EU funders to factor-in the high cost of delivering services in Ireland in comparison to other European states and advocate for a funding increase in operating grants to support long-term projects.
Hundreds of local and European candidates have signed the Community Matters pledge in support of these principles which is being promoted by The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of charities.
We will continue to work with the elected candidates in making sure these principles are delivered on.
We are a nation of caring and generous people and we have a proud history of philanthropy and volunteerism. Our vibrant non-profit sector reflects these national values and it brings colour and cohesion to our communities. This is something of which Irish people should be rightly proud.
An important act to further this price is voting for those candidates who recognise this value and have committed to supporting that future. Be sure to use your vote to support the candidates who will support our communities
Sarah Monaghan is campaigns manager at The Wheel. A full list of candidates who have signed the Community Matters pledge can be viewed at www.wheel.ie/elections