Country Idealist Profiles

Ireland – The Number of Community & Voluntary Organisations in Ireland.

According to The Wheel (A support and representative body connecting Community and Voluntary organisations across Ireland) there are over 19,000 organisations in the community & voluntary sector in Ireland.  Each plays a vital part in maintaining an inclusive society, and the sector as a whole makes a big contribution to the Irish economy.  Over two thirds of Irish adults (over 2 million people) engage annually in the myriad of social, sporting, cultural and humanitarian activities offered by these community and voluntary organisations.  The community and voluntary sector directly contributes over €2.5billion to the economy each year.  Community and voluntary organisations employed over 40,000 full time and 23,000 part time staff in 2004, with volunteers providing the work of a further 31,000 full time equivalents.
The Centre for Nonprofit Management CNM in Trinity College estimates that there are almost 25,000 non-profit organisations in Ireland.  The non-profit definition used by the CNM is broader than the community and voluntary sector as it includes all non-profit bodies.  Therefore this definition includes some hospitals, hospices an education providers.  However, of the organisations identified by the CNM, the majority are likely to be community and voluntary organisations.  The following table outlines their regional distribution:

Region Number % of National Total
Dublin 6,147 24.9
Rest of Leinster 6,540 26.5
Munster 6,822 27.6
Connaught 3,865 15.6
Ulster (3 counties) 1,333 5.4
Republic of Ireland 24,707 100

Ireland – Government Department responsible for the Community & Voluntary Sector

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - The Third Sector by hynesbrid on August 14, 2008

The Department of Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs ( An Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta) has lead responsibility for developing the relationship between the State and the Community and Voluntary Sector.


Ireland – Definition of the Non-Profit Sector

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - The Third Sector by hynesbrid on August 14, 2008

The non‑profit Sector can be defined as the sector that is non‑market and non‑state.  Broadly speaking as well as small‑scale local Community and Voluntary organisations, it spans a range of specialised organisations and institutions, such as voluntary public hospitals, major mental handicap organisations, major sporting organisations, credit unions, trade unions, political parties, employer organisations, educational institutions and church‑based institutions.  However for the greater part, the non profit sector in Ireland is usually referred to as the Community and Voluntary Sector.   
It includes organisations and groups that are:

  • Organised: they have an institutional presence and structure
  • Private or non‑governmental: they are institutionally separate from the state;
  • Non‑profit distributing: they do not return profits to their managers or to a set of ‘owners’;
  • Self‑governing: they are fundamentally in control of their own affairs;
  • Voluntary: membership is not legally required and such organisations attract some level of voluntary contribution of time or money.,2200,en.doc

History of the Community and Voluntary Sector in Ireland

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - The Third Sector by hynesbrid on August 14, 2008

The Community and Voluntary Sector in Ireland is sometimes seen as comprising two discrete subsections – a Community Sector and a Voluntary Sector.  This reflects the historical development of the sector. 

The roots of the Voluntary Sector can be traced back to the charitable organisations, many church based, of the 18th century. This sector is the larger of the two with a focus often on service delivery and a greater reliance on charitable donations and fundraising.  Many voluntary sector organisations are major service providers, particularly in the fields of health, disability and services for the elderly.

The Community Sector groups tend on the other hand to be smaller in scale and focus on responses to issues within a given community (geographical or interest based) and often with a social inclusion ethos.
In practice, the two are opposite ends of a continuum and many organisations combine features of both.  Just as many large voluntary sector service providers have a strong advocacy role, so many community groups deliver practical services (e.g. childcare) in their local areas.
In Ireland the Voluntary Sector not only complements and supplements State provision but it is the dominant provider in particular areas.  Minimum statutory provision for social welfare and social services was provided under the Poor Laws in the 1830s.  Voluntary activity, especially by religious orders and their concern with charity and the poor, played a major role in providing supplementary welfare provision. The Church based education system, at both primary and secondary level and voluntary hospitals predate the foundation of the State.  The primary role of church‑based voluntary organisations and services provided by religious orders in meeting education and social welfare needs continued after the foundation of the State. Many services have been initiated and run by religious organisations, for example services for people with a mental and physical disability, youth services, the elderly, residential child care services and services for the homeless (their role is now changing which has created gaps that are increasingly being filled by the statutory sector and other voluntary organisations).  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of the largest voluntary organisations with its roots in Catholic social teaching has 1000 branches nationwide with 10,000 members, active not only in welfare services but also enabling people to become self sufficient and raising the structural inequalities in society.   In the 1950s, the State gradually began to play a wider role in funding voluntary social welfare provision and voluntary activity.   The Health Act 1953 introduced Section 65 grants for funding of voluntary organisations providing services ‘ancillary’ to those provided by Health Services themselves. This enabling provision is still an important source of funding for voluntary social service providers, although it is currently being replaced on a phased basis by a new legal framework. 
Community development also has historical roots, as typified by the co‑operative movement which was designed to counteract the exploitation of the poor and to give voice and autonomy to the people.  Muintir na Tíre, founded in the 1930s, also stresses the importance of self-reliance and local initiative.  The 1970s saw the development of community empowerment and involvement with self-help initiatives aimed at disadvantaged groups.  EU funded anti‑poverty programmes were instrumental in this regard, emphasising empowerment, participation and social inclusion.  The tradition of self‑help as typified by the co‑operative movement, evolved into a focus on disadvantage with increased citizen involvement and community activism cumulating into a growing number of organisations representing sectoral and geographical communities, as well as sporting, youth, arts, heritage and cultural interests.  Community development is described as an interactive process of knowledge and action designed to change conditions which marginalise communities and groups and is underpinned by a vision of self-help and community self-reliance.  A strong infrastructure of community and local development has been built up in Ireland both at central and local level.  For example, the Community Development Programme funded by the Department of Social and Family Affairs was established in 1990 in recognition of the role of community development in enhancing the capacity of local communities to work together to tackle poverty and exclusion.  Since then the number of community development projects funded through the Programme has increased steadily and there is now a strong network of approximately 100 projects all over the country.  The aim of the Programme is to develop a network of supported community development resource centres and projects in areas and for groups affected by high unemployment, poverty and disadvantage.  Many community groups are issue-based, rather than area-based.  Examples are lone parents groups, groups concerned with responses to homelessness or drugs and equality issues.  Many issue‑based organisations have succeeded in getting issues adopted at Local Development Partnership level for incorporation into local development plans.   In Ireland, anti‑poverty networks and other national level Community and Voluntary sector organisations have had a significant input into national social partnership agreements.  At EU level, their equivalent NGO networks have been active in influencing the development of EU social policy. 
The Community & Voluntary Sector has changed considerably in the past two decades.  It has changed in terms of size, methods of operation and organisation employed, development of linkages and networks, diversity of outlook and perspective, numbers employed, etc.  These changes have happened at national, regional and local level and have also involved development of transnational linkages and a greater interest in debates and issues at EU Level.  At this point the Community and Voluntary sector is active in

  • delivery of essential services
  • advocacy and provision of information
  • contributing to policy‑making
  • national and local partnership arenas
  • undertaking research
  • creation of opportunities for members and participants to access education, training, income and employment opportunities

Recent decades have also seen the growth in voluntary social service organisations such as voluntary housing associations, social services councils, childcare services, services for people with disabilities, day care services, care of the aged committees etc.  There has also been a growth in the number of independent information-giving organisations that play a key role in creating a more inclusive and participative society.  These include the national network of Citizen’s Information Centres (85), Money Advice and Budgeting Services (50), Congress Centres for the Unemployed (38), and Youth Information Centres (27).
According to the Government White Paper a key challenge for the future for these groups is to harness their collective energy in order to maximise their impact, both at policy development level (e.g. in relation to welfare/health issues), and at the level of their individual client base.,2200,en.doc

The Role of NGOs in Ireland in relation to Government

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - The Third Sector by hynesbrid on August 14, 2008

The important role played by the Community and Voluntary Sector in Ireland has been higlighted in a number of reports

The Government recognises that the Community and Voluntary (C&V) sector plays a crucial role in society, quite separate to and independent of the institutions of Government.  It represents the engagement by individuals in their own development, in that of their communities and of the wider society.  The Government values the existence of a lively and involved Community and Voluntary sector independent and sufficiently wide‑ranging to represent the many diverse elements of society.  Civil society is greatly enriched when ordinary citizens come together in voluntary action, community involvement and self‑help initiatives.  The Government sees the sector as having a specific role in ensuring that the experiences and interests of marginalised communities and groups are articulated and are heard when decisions that affect them are being made.  It sees the C&V sector as having a role and potential to

  • Help create a vibrant civil and active society in which individuals are encouraged and enabled to participate fully.  This is an essential component of a mature democracy
  • Respond to pressing social needs quickly, directly and effectively
  • Pioneer new approaches to service provision and local and community development
  • Improve the effectiveness of services through feed‑back and monitoring of services by consumers and users
  • Provide opportunities for volunteers to participate and develop skills
  • Create employment opportunities through the provision of services and through the activities of community development projects, thus contributing to community infrastructure
  • Foster self‑help and enable people to become active participants in shaping their future
  • Identify needs and appropriate responses tailored to the specific needs of local communities and neighbourhoods and specific communities of interests
  • Offer new solutions where conventional approaches have failed
  • Enable people who are excluded to become involved in the regeneration process in their own communities and at a wider societal level.,2200,en.doc 


Ireland – Internet Access

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics by hynesbrid on August 5, 2008

Of the 1,462,296 households surveyed in the 2006 Census 828,356 (57%) indicated they own a personal computer.  

A total of 682,645 households (47%) have internet access – 292,110 (20%) having access to Broadband while 390,535 (27%) have another internet connection. 

A total of 703,907 households (48%) do not have internet access. 

75744 households (5%) did not indicate either way.

Ireland – Levels of Education of Population

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - Education System by hynesbrid on August 5, 2008


Persons, Males and Females Aged 15 Years and Over Classified by Highest Level of Education Completed, 2006.

  Males Females Persons
Total aged 15 years and over
Total whose full-time education has ceased
Highest level of education completed Primary (incl. no formal education)
Lower secondary
Upper secondary
Third Level Non-degree
Degree or higher
Not stated
Total whose full-time education not ceased
Economic status Total at school, university, etc.

Those aged 15 years and older who are currently at School / University:
Males        164,638
Females     184,958
Total         349,596

% of persons 15 years and older who have left education with a third level qualification:
In 2005, The Combat Poverty Agency published a report of the spatial distribution of Poverty called `Mapping Poverty, Local Regional and County Patterns´.  This report highlights a breakdpwn of the percentage of those 15 years and older who have left school with a third level qualification.    While the percentage varies across the country the mean average works out at 23.77% of the population having a third level qualification.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures for 2006 show a slight increase in this % with a total of 829,102 of the population aged 15 years and over having completed Third Level college.  This accounts for 24.56% of the 15+ population.

Ireland – Demographics

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics, Ireland - Demographics by hynesbrid on August 5, 2008


Population by Age (2006)

Age Group










65 +





Of the overall population, the percentage ratio of those living in Urban areas versus Rural Areas is 61:39 Urban.
                      Urban                                   Rural
           Male              1,267,960                             853,211           
Female          1,306,353                             812,324
 Total             2,574,313                           1,665,535   (page 42 & 43)

Ireland – GDP Rates

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics by hynesbrid on August 5, 2008

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$186.2 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):  
$258.6 billion (2007 est.) 

GDP – real growth rate:   
5.3% (2007 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):   
$43,100 (2007 est.) 

GDP – composition by sector:  
agriculture: 5%
industry: 46%
services: 49% (2002 est.)

Ireland – Current Social and Economic Situation

Posted in Ireland, Ireland - Basics by hynesbrid on August 5, 2008
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging 6% in 1995-2007. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. Although the exports sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, remains a key component of Ireland’s economy, construction has most recently fueled economic growth along with strong consumer spending and business investment. Property prices have risen more rapidly in Ireland in the decade up to 2006 than in any other developed world economy. Per capita GDP is 40% above that of the four big European economies and the second highest in the EU behind Luxembourg, and in 2007 surpassed that of the United States. 
Since 1997, the rate of economic growth in Ireland has averaged 7¼ per cent per annum. This buoyant rate of expansion has propelled average per capita income in Ireland, not just up to convergence levels, but has actually surpassed those enjoyed in most other developed economies. Ireland has gone from a society that had to send its people abroad for work, to a society that now welcomes substantial inflows of people from other European Union member states and further afield. The labour force now stands at over 2 million people. The total number at work has risen by some 700,000 and unemployment has fallen from some 10 per cent in 1997 to about 4½ per cent in 2007. More recently however, a slowdown in the property market, more intense global competition, and increased costs, however, have compelled government economists to lower Ireland’s growth forecast slightly for 2008.