Charity is big business in NI…

THE IMC has suggested that charities may be fronts for paramilitary money laundering (see pages 33 & 34). This is completely unsurprising, as the law, such as it exists here, on charities is simply not enforced.Whatever the Government might spin to you, I can assure you that charity is more or less unregulated here. Generous people are ripped off every day by NI charities. Some charity workers take most of the donations as income. There is no Charity Commission, as there is everywhere else in the UK, despite the furore over the Children’s Hospice. When someone asks you to fill a plastic bag with old clothes to leave outside your door for collection, someone is making money. There is no control over profiteering, and this is badly damaging the income of legitimate, registered charities here, of which there are many.

The DoE was supposed to be in charge of listing which charities were legitimate or registered, but it doesn’t take these duties seriously, nor does it have any real powers. The authorities are complicit in this state of affairs. I remember the RUC lending trucks to one Ballymena charity to use to take goods abroad to those in need. The man who ran it was later prosecuted for breaking charity law, and – as far as I know – is still profiting handsomely from his ‘charity’ work.

Another Ballymena Red Cross worker went one step further, and gave trucks donated by the MoD to Serb forces during the conflict there in the 90s. The white and red trucks were simply repainted when they arrived, stocked up with handcuffs from other UK police forces. These were then used to hold political prisoners captive.

It sounds unbelievable, but is absolutely true.

So to discover that our local terrorists are profiting from your generosity is only to be expected. Don’t expect the government to do anything much about it soon though. It will continue to prevaricate with its review for many months to come.

But the paramilitaries needn’t worry about losing money; Paul Murphy is about to offer the paramilitaries another carrot – he will drop the suspension of block financial assistance to the PUP and Sinn Féin that followed the last IMC report.

What a charitable act.