Appointments to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

June 1, 2009

The appointment of the first Commissioners to the new Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (the “Commission”) was announced on 1 June 2009. Tom McGrath has been appointed Chief Commissioner. Mr McGrath has also chaired the NI Tourist Board (2003-2008), the Northern Ireland Business Education Partnership (2004-2006) and the George Best Memorial Trust (2006-2007).

Patricia Sloan will be Deputy Chief Commissioner.  Patricia is currently National Head of BBC Children in Need and was previously Chief Executive of the NI Human Rights Commission.

The Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner posts are for a 5 year term.

There are 4 other Charity Commissioners:

  • Ms Angela Chada – an Executive Director of Springboard and Board member of Intercomm
  • Mr. Philip McDonagh – Senior Management Consultant and Chief Economist with Pricewaterhouse Coopers
  • Mr. Paul Cavanagh – currently employed in the Health Service and previously worked for Save the Children, Gingerbread and the North West Community Networ
  • Mr. Walter Rader – Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland


The Board comprises a Chief Commissioner, a Deputy Chief Commissioner and the Charity Commissioners who are all appointed on a part-time basis.

Speaking at the launch in Barnardo’s in Belfast, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie MLA described it as a red letter day for all charities. She said: “I would like to congratulate charities in Northern Ireland for the sterling work they do, often for very vulnerable people. But the system needs tightened up and overhauled. We need leadership. We need regulation. We need the public to be assured that the money they give is going to where it should go. The Commissioners bring with them an array of skills and experience in the statutory, private and charitable sectors and I am confident that they can make a valuable contribution.

Tom McGrath the newly appointed Chief Commissioner said: “The set up of any body is a demanding task but there is an added responsibility here in that we are working with the charitable sector who play a huge role in providing invaluable services to some of the most needy in our communities. As Charity Commissioners we must seek to fulfil our role as a regulatory body but we must not hinder the work of charities. Rather we should where possible seek to encourage and support that work within the context of our legal responsibilities.”

The Commission has been set up to fulfil specific objectives and functions which are set out in more detail below.

Objectives of the Commission

The Commission has the following objectives which are set out in statute:

1.         To increase public trust and confidence in charities;

2.         To promote awareness and understanding of the operation of the public benefit test in relation to charities;

3.         To promote compliance by charity trustees with their legal obligations in exercising control and management of the administration of their charities;

4.         To promote the effective use of charitable resources; and

5.         To enhance the accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the general public.

Role of the Commission

The Commission has the following general functions:

1.         Determining whether institutions are or are not charities;

2.         Encouraging and facilitating the better administration of charities;

3.         Identifying and investigating apparent misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of charities and taking remedial or protective action in connection with misconduct or mismanagement therein;

4.         Determining whether public collection certificates should be issued, and remain in force, in respect of public charitable collections;

5.         Obtaining, evaluating and disseminating information in connection with the performance of any of the Commission’s functions or meeting any of its objectives, this includes the establishment and maintenance of an accurate and up-to-date register of charities; and

6.         Giving information or advice, or making proposals, to the Department for Social Development on matters relating to any of the Commission’s functions or meeting any of its objectives.

  • Our team in the Charities Unit would be pleased to help you to highlight the major provisions in the Act and to discuss its implications further.  If you would like further information, please get in touch with Jenny Ebbage, Partner, 028 9027 1302, email