Keeping the People’s Voice in Power
Your vote shouldn’t be the only way that you can engage with the political system.
If you’re concerned about an issue, you should be able to start a voluntary or not-for-profit group. Your group should also be able to fundraise and engage in advocacy, ie speak to your local TD, start an awareness campaign, or organise a protest. In short, you should be able to make your voice heard.
However, in Ireland right now, if your organisation engages in both fundraising and advocacy you risk falling foul of the Electoral Act and the body which oversees its enforcement – the Standards in Public Offices Commission (SIPOC). Your organisation may be forced to close down, and you yourself could be threatened with legal action.
The Electoral Act prohibits organisations who promote causes or solutions to societal problems from engaging in fundraising.
That’s why the Coalition for Civil Society Freedom is campaigning for reform of the Electoral Act. We’re campaigning to keep #thePeoplesVoice in power.
Sign the open letter to the Taoiseach calling for reform here
If the Electoral Act is not reformed, that will leave politics to the politicians, unchecked. They won’t be challenged on policies that are bad for particular groups, and they won’t be presented with realistic solutions from the communities who are affected, because those groups will have been silenced.
We’ve already seen Education Equality have to dissolve and transfer to a limited company which can’t accept donations of over €100. Amnesty had to battle SIPOC in court, and risked losing credibility with the public, over legitimate international funding for a human rights campaign. Other organisations have actually had to shut down.
There are more examples like these, but organisations are too afraid of losing their funding or their credibility to put their head above the parapet and challenge SIPOC.
Which is why the Coalition for Civil Society Freedom are doing it. We’re campaigning for reform so that effective groups who are making change can continue to operate properly.
This situation is what happens in authoritarian countries, not healthy democracies. In fact, legislation very similar to the Electoral Act is used to stifle the people’s voice in countries such as Russia and Hungary. In an ironic twist, Ireland actively campaigns against this kind of bad law abroad. In fact, we are considered a world leader in ensuring civil society has the space it needs in which to operate. We need to be doing the same at home.
The Coalition for Civil Society Freedom will launch our policy paper for reform on the 11 October. We have invited representatives from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and Civicus – the World Alliance for Citizen Participation – to speak at the launch in Woodquay Venue Dublin at 2pm.
Register to attend here: https://thepeoplesvoiceinpower.eventbrite.ie
Sign the open letter to Leo Varadkar and add your voice to #thePeoplesVoice here: https://action.uplift.ie/campaigns/284
The Coalition for Civil Society Freedom is comprised of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Wheel, Uplift, Amnesty International Ireland, Transparency International Ireland and Front Line Defenders. It is coordinated by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.