Friday, 6 June 2014

The Queen and I.

Well, such is the power of modern communications I was able to watch the Gracious Speech on my iPad!  It seems the most interesting part of it all was the page boy fainting and the horse bolting. A lacklustre set of bills, of which only two are of direct importance to the third sector.

ACEVO has welcomed the potential of the new Charity Commission powers Bill, but we must be careful about the details. Many of us puzzle over the behaviour of the Commission. Often over legalistic and inconsistent decisions, which seem odd on common sense grounds. Many of us wonder why certain complaints get taken up whilst others are ignored. Recently there have been a raft of investigations into Muslim charities. Whilst I clearly don't know the details, I do worry that the perception may grow that the Commission has fallen prey to the current government paranoia on 'Trojan schools'. The last thing we need is the perception amongst the Muslim community that the Commission is taking an anti-Islamic stance, when they often fail to investigate similar allegations with other charities. As with the whole of society, we need active volunteers and trustees from the Muslim community. We must ensure they are encouraged, not discouraged from actively volunteering. And if people wish to have Muslim-led charities that work in Muslim communities, we should welcome and support them just as we would those from any other faith. We must not instinctively think it suspicious, or give that impression.

We also need a clear understanding of when and why the Charity Commission take up cases, and whether they have effective methods for whistleblowing.

I was very disturbed at the decision on the Human Dignity Trust, which fights in the courts to end discrimination against homosexuals in other countries. This could not possibly be for the public benefit, the Commission has ruled, because changing these laws is contrary to public policy and could prejudice our relations with states that put gay men in jail. For these reasons, the Commission has denied the Human Dignity Trust registration as a charity, a decision that will be challenged in court today I'm glad to say. What a perverse ruling. It risks adding to the impression of a reactionary Commission, which is unhelpful both to them and to the sector.

We all want an effective regulator. We need them to have strong powers. But we also need to ensure their resources are wisely used and carefully targeted. So ACEVO and our members will work with the Cabinet Office on the new Bill provisions, to ensure just that.

It is often said that our sector is over-regulated. Let's ensure that we combine light-touch regulation with effective oversight and, most importantly, that we do not allow the Commission to forget that a part of its role is to build trust and confidence in our sector. That, after all, is a large part of what effective regulation will achieve.

And so, that's enough of the Queen. I have moved from Hall to Castle! From Union Hall to Castle Townshend to be precise. And we are staying at the Castle:

The Castle.
Castle Townshend
The castle.

My Great Grandfather x 5, the Rev. Thomas Somerville, was brought by his father to Ireland in 1690. His father was the Rector of Leswalt in Co. Galloway, in SW Scotland. They were fleeing persecution as the Rev. William had been deposed from his living for being an Episcopalian, still praying for the Jacobites. He fled with his young family (his son Thomas was only one) in an open boat to Ulster, together with one Rev. James Cameron (no relation I'm sure!) and his family. 

Anyway the Rev. Thomas became a successful clergyman for Castle Townshend and Union Hall, and his son Thomas II built the magical house, Drishane, which you see here. The Somervilles still live here and we popped in to see distant cousin Tom Somerville the 8th.

At Drishane

At Drishane
Tom’s great aunt was the magnificent Edith Somerville, the author and painter.


 I shan’t mention the evening of dancing and singing with a number of cousins in Skibereen on Wednesday night, and certainly no photos of that! Needless to say it was all very Irish.

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