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Book examines obligations on charity trustees and their professional advisors
Professor Oonagh Breen and co-author Philip Smith, who is a partner at Arthur Cox

30 Jan 2020 / regulation Print

Book examines obligations on charity trustees and their professional advisors

Reform of the charity sector in Ireland began with a Law Society report in 2002, a book launch audience heard last night.

UCD Sutherland School of Law’s Professor Oonagh Breen was launching her book Law of Charities in Ireland at Arthur Cox on Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2.

Co-author Philip Smith is a partner with Arthur Cox and head of the charity and pension law group at the firm.

Philip's legal expertise is supplemented by his practical experience of the issues facing charity trustees both as a former director and chairman of Boardmatch Ireland and as a member of the working group which developed, and subsequently reviewed, the community and voluntary sector's governance code.

The book, published by Bloomsbury Professional, was launched by retired Supreme Court Justice Mary Finlay Geogeghan.

“We wrote it with both the practitioner and the client in mind,” Professor Breen said.

In her opening remarks, Professor Breen followed the evolution of charity law reform over the past thirty years, from civil society involvement to Government input at departmental level.

“We also looked back at the authors’ own involvement in assisting with that process over the past twenty years,” Professor Breen told Gazette.ie today.

In force

“We now have a Charities Act 2009 which is in force for the past ten years.

“The act requires a review of its own working, which was due to begin in October 2019.”

Professor Breen explained that reform of the charity sector in Ireland began with the Law Society’s Law Reform Committee back in 2002.

“The secretary to that committee was Alma Clissmann [now of the Law Reform Commission] who worked very hard to keep the project on track,” said Professor Breen.

Both co-authors served on that Committee, which was chaired by former Law Society President John Costello.

The Committee published a report called Charity law – the case for reformThat report provided a  blueprint of the changes required to modernise charity law and contributed to the development of the Charities Act 2009.


“With this book, we are as interested in helping those running the charity as much as their professional advisors,” said Professor Breen.

“We’re hoping the book is going to work on two levels – both for the charity trustees, but also to provide the answers needed by accountants, lawyers and tax advisors working with charities.”

Professor Breen points out that the term “charity trustees” is designated under the law and covers the directors of a charitable company, the trustees of a charitable trust and the officers of an unincorporated association.


“If your charity takes any of those forms, in law you are all ‘charity trustees’ and you have statutory obligations under the Charities Act 2009,” she said.

The Charities Appeal Tribunal, meanwhile has a board membership consisting of 60% solicitors. Three of its five members – current Law Society Council member Bill Holohan, former Law Society President Patrick O’Connor, and Carol Fawsitt – are practising solicitors.

And three of the five board members are women, the other two being Karen Horgan and Deirdre Kiely.

The board sits for a four-year term, concluding its service in September 2020.

The book is published by Bloomsbury Professional and it is on sale now.

It can be ordered from Bloomsbury directly on (01) 637 3920), or from Gill, Bloomsbury’s distributors, on (01) 500 9500 who will also process the order.


Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland