the big society: does it apply to Northern Ireland?

The Clock Tower, Palace of Westminster, London...
The Palace of Westminster. Image via Wikipedia

The latest news from the Coalition Government in Westminster is a scheme whereby customers using bank cards could give money to charity. As a trustee of The HIV Support Centre, a local charity, this sounds like it could be a source of welcome money. But I have quite a number of questions.

  • How would such money be distributed?
  • How would the charity/charities be chosen?
  • Is this to eliminate charity boxes in corner shops/bars etc.?

I cannot see how this could be done in a fair way to help those charities that are reasonably small – yet are vital to local communities. There is, of course, another problem. How does one define what is and is not a charity. There is a Charity Commission / Comisiwn Elusennau (in England and Wales), an Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator – but the Northern Irish one is still not up and running.

I’d suggest that Coalition Government needs to rethink what it is proposing. It needs to remember that it mostly only controls that part of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom called England. Everywhere else (excepting Cornwall) has its own devolved administration.

I am not convinced that the Tories really understand the principle behind devolution. The days of the Westminster Parliament telling all of us what to do have gone. I hope that the Ministers of the Crown responsible in London will take the time to consult with their counterparts in Holyrood and Stormont.

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