Ulster charities are now required to register with the newly-formed Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.
Compulsory charity registration, which began this week, will see the independent regulator begin the process of registering the thousands of charitable organisations currently operating in the Province.
“The beginning of registration marks a sea change in the regulation of charities in Northern Ireland, a move towards greater transparency, openness and accountability,” said Tom McGrath, chief commissioner at the Charity Commission.
“Once the register is complete, anyone, anywhere in the world, will be able to go online to check that a charity in Northern Ireland is just that – a bona fide and accountable charity – all at the click of a button.”
Mr McGrath added: “There is a long road ahead as work begins to register the upwards of 7,000 charitable organisations operating in Northern Ireland – a challenge we are ready to meet.”
Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland, whose responsibilities include charity matters, said: “For the first time charities here will be required to register, to demonstrate their public benefit and, in due course, to provide annual reports and accounts to the commission.
“The intention is not to place an unnecessary burden on local charities and I think charities here recognise that. This is a significant milestone towards ensuring proper accountability and increased public confidence in charitable giving.”
According to estimates there are between 7,000 and 12,000 charities operating across Northern Ireland, from church groups, schools and universities through to housing associations, support organisations and advice groups, to list but a few.
Frances McCandless, chief executive at the commission, added: “Given the estimated thousands of charities operating in Northern Ireland, registration will also not happen overnight but is a process we will gradually roll out over coming months and years.”
To find out more information on registration, including checking the commission’s registration lists, visit www.charitycommissionni.org.uk .