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Criminals rob charity clothing banks

Catherine Byrne (FG, Dublin SC) raised, as a topical debate in the Dail, thefts from charity clothing banks (Dail Eireann, Debates, 16th May 2013, 774-5).  She spoke of Liberties Recycling, which had 145 banks and employed 62 people, but in the past 12 months 80 of its banks had been damaged and it had suffered a loss of revenue of €600,000.  Criminal gangs were thieving from the banks, often damaging them in the process, putting Liberties Recycling in question.


Responding, the Minister for Justice & Equality, Alan Shatter, described these thefts as nasty, callous and cynical.  As for the Prime Time broadcast, he had requested a specific report from the Garda Commissioner and would consider his suggestions as to how those responsible could be brought to justice.  He was determined to ensure that donations for those in need not be diverted by theft or profiteering.  He added that people were entitled to know the benefits that charities received from such donations.  There was a need for greater transparency when it came to arrangements that commercial companies might have with charities in the operation of clothing grants.  


Catherine Byrne asked him when would the Garda report be completed?  Had the Gardai any suggestions for the securing of clothing banks?  Would he meet representatives of the organizations concerned?  The minister told her that he had no problem in meeting charity representatives.  He expected to receive a response from the Commissioner in the not-too-distant future, but had not set a specific timeline. In the early years, people respected the work of charities out of a sense of decency, but those who engaged in this criminality had no respect for those genuinely in need.  As for security, he did not know if there might be some mechanical way of addressing the problem and possibly the groups affected might share some thoughts with him as to how the clothing banks might be better secured.


Separately, the Minister for Justice & Equality, Alan Shatter told Derek Nolan (Lab, Galway W) that he was aware of the Prime Time programme on theft from charity clothing banks, which was a criminal offence, as was giving the impression that one was collecting on behalf of a charity when that might not actually be the case.  The Charities Act, §46, makes it an offence for an organization to describe itself as charitable when it was not, but this could not be commenced until the register was in place (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th May 2013, 331-2).


Staying with charity issues, the Minister for Finance was asked by Paschal Donohoe (FG, Dublin C) about whether charities could make a political donation (Dail Eireann, Debates, 21st May 2013, 173).  He told him that charities were not permitted to directly support political parties or candidates, they were permitted to apply their funds to activities that advanced or promoted their charitable purpose: ‘depending on the circumstances, these can include certain political lobbying and advocacy activities in support of their charitable purposes’.

> Introduction of Charities Act, 2009: Dail Eireann, Debates, 2nd May 2013, 964; 23rd May 2013, 906.