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1 Debates: 1% campaign

The Seanad debated the 1% Difference National Giving Campaign on a motion introduced by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Seanad Eireann, 22nd October 2013, 21-39).  The minister spoke of a dynamic civil society as a pillar of a successful society and we had almost 8,000 charities.  If we wanted to create a better Ireland, we must invest in civil society.  Atlantic Philanthropies and One Foundation were exiting, leaving a gap of between €50m and €60m a year, but it was now time for Irish foundations and philanthropists to fill the gap. There were strong economic arguments for greater private investment in the not-for-profit sector and the 1% difference was about generating additional investment to support the efforts of individuals and organizations working for a better Ireland.  The campaign was supported by President Robinson, sportsman Ronan O’Gara, chef Clodagh McKenna, novelist Fran O’Brien and Liam O’Neill (GAA).  He cited the support of Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone, County Crest and DoneDeal, as well as that of President Clinton.  600 organizations had signed up for the campaign.


He was supported by Labhras O Murchi (FF, cultural & educational): Ireland was very good when it came to donations to charities: giving had increased over 2009 to 2011.  The corporate donation rate though was less than 1% and there was a need for corporate Ireland to understand what it meant to develop civil society.  We should find ways of engaging with corporate Ireland other than through begging letters, but it had not been part of our culture: ‘it is part of the culture in the United States, from where we have so much to learn’.   Corporate Ireland would respond positively if it were put in a cogent, constructive way.  Martin Conway (FG, administrative) spoke of how the campaign would bring matters to an entirely new level and give companies the opportunity to donate.  The campaign would be a fundamental part of our recovery and he hoped that it would result in a mass movement.


Katherine Zappone (ind, Taoiseach nominee) described the campaign as  an important step toward the development of a culture of strategic giving.  Government leadership was vital in a context where Ireland was behind.  Charities had been stripped to the bone and had to do more with less, with their spirit and innovation significantly impacted by the long period of financial crisis.   She hoped that the spirit of social innovation had not been damaged beyond repair.  Giving had to be more strategic, about root causes and making a sustainable improvement as distinct from contributing to immediate relief.


Denis Landy (Lab, administrative) spoke of how although 89% of people gave to charity, only 15% made regular donations, compared to 36% in Britain.  Corporate giving was low, but he cited Merck, Sharp and Dohme in Carrick on Suir which gave a phenomenal amount of money to the local community and practically every organization got money in some shape or form.  The plan under the 1% difference campaign was to raise €800m by 2016 but it was achievable and not such a great amount of money when one takes into account the money earned by foreign direct investment and indigenous companies.  Likewise, for Marc McSharry (FF, industrial & commercial), the top 500 companies could be doing more in contributing to charity.  Getting everyone to give 1% even in these difficult times would be good and he urged the minister to raise the profile of the campaign.  The minister was commended by Fiach Mac Conghail (ind, Taoiseach nominee); and John Whelan (Lab, labour) who said that ‘going into the winter with its long evenings, no one should go cold, lonely or hungry for the want of us having a bit of extra thought, care and compassion: now is the time to dig a little deeper until we get over this hillock of a recession’. 


Mary Ann O’Brien (ind, Taoiseach nominee) told the house that the sector had to be be put in order with a proper regulatory framework, but the Minister for Justice and Equality could not get the regulator up and running fast enough.  The media had damaged the way the sector in the way in which it was portrayed, with the secrecy of salaries, large amounts spent on fund-raising and large amounts on deposit in the banks: we needed regulations and transparency.  Trevor O Clochartaigh (SF, agricultural) supported the campaign but was concerned that philanthropy should be seen as a replacement for state support.