Strengthening the democratic contribution of NGOs and nonprofit organisations

Our laws governing political donations don’t work for democracy

This is the text of a column I published in the on 3 January 2018. So now we know.  The Electoral Acts – the suite of laws which govern political donations – are failing to deepen transparency and accountability of those designated as ‘third parties’. Not because these ‘third parties’, or more specifically civil society organisations (CSOs) such as Amnesty International, are failing to comply, but because the legislation.. Read More

Lighting a candle, not casting a shadow

Remarks I made at the launch of on 18 May 2016.   Mostly drawn on lessons from The Advocacy Initiative. I have been a member of the Benefacts stakeholder group over the past year or so. I joined the group not long after The Advocacy Initiative finished. The Advocacy Initiative was a civil society project (that I was lucky enough to run) that spent three years exploring the future.. Read More

Turning ourselves inside out – the rights and responsibilities of participation for CSOs

Paper presented to a Dochas Participation seminar on 16 April 2015. I am speaking to you today because I have just spent the last three years running a project called The Advocacy Initiative; a broad community and voluntary sector project aimed at examining and better understanding the advocacy of C&V organisations. The Initiative first emerged in 2008, so its history parallels the turmoil of the last six years. It was.. Read More

Time for a new social contract? Reflections from The Advocacy Initiative

This week I was delighted to be invited to give a short input at a seminar launching Joe Larragy’s new book on the community and voluntary pillar, Asymmetric Engagement. One of a number of contributors we were asked to consider the question ‘Time for a new Social Contract?’. My presentation drew on the findings of The Advocacy Initiative. The question of whether we need a new social contract sent me.. Read More

It’s SSNOing!

Reflections on the grant allocation for the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2014-2016 Earlier this year the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government announced the third round of this scheme. There were substantial changes to the parameters of the scheme, the application process for which was now to be managed by Pobail. This new scheme had a number of clear distinguishing characteristics. It was for national organisations that focus.. Read More

Just saying…

I felt the need to put the following statement from Irish Aid’s policy on civil society, beside a sample service level agreement which the HSE signs with those organisations it funds. “In the past, civil society organisations often established parallel service delivery functions and tried to replace the role of the state in service delivery. The limitations of this approach are now widely recognised and civil society organisations now tend to seek a complementary.. Read More

Giving a strong voice to all in society

This is the text of an editorial I published in The Examiner on 7 June 2013, with my Advocacy Initiative hat on. ON the surface it may seem natural that any government would be hesitant to fund criticism of its own policies. Is this not simply a case of an organisation in receipt of state funds biting the hand that feeds it? At first glance the argument against state funding.. Read More


Reading about democracy at the moment and came across this: The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto It cannot all be about participation in the sense of consultation, participation has to mean being the decision-makers not just influencing the decision-makers. Is there.. Read More

Guest blog

Wrote a guest blog for Dochas on the arguments for global equality using material prepared for a class presentation. Feels a bit inadequate, its a summary really, and I am not sure that each of the arguments is really for an equality based response to global injustice. Though I am very interested in the comments, one so far, I wonder if there will be others?

Why we need dedicated funded advocacy organisations.

7istooyoung is a dynamic, energetic and apparently very effective campaign, focused on protecting lone parents from the worst excesses of the austerity Budget 2012. Despite the remarkably unpopular subject area (lets face it lone parents are not sick children or puppies), the three key organisations involved have not only generated public sympathy, but also political willingness, where none had existed.  No mean feat. And what has this got to do with.. Read More