The role of the almost completely state-funded National Women’s Council of Ireland in organising what is effectively a leftist protest rally has attracted attention, not just to that body and what its role is supposed to be, but to the increasing prominence of the Non-Governmental Sector in general.
Women from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the Greens have expressed their anger over the March 5 rally to be headlined by Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, but they ought to remember that in the case of the two bigger parties that they created the NGO monster; and in the case of the Greens that they have benefitted politically themselves when in opposition and government from the backing of left-liberal entities such as the NWCI.
The NGOs also played a key role in using public money, along with donations from corporate sponsors, to push for and to win the referendums on same-sex marriage and abortion. They are also central to the unquestioned support for mass immigration from the establishment and the virtual ban on any discussion with regards to its merits or demerits. This is the case even when it is clear that the lack of controls on immigration have had malign repercussions in many areas from housing to crime.
Gript has looked at the sheer scale of the NGO sector in the past. In 2020, from public information that had been collated by Benefacts, and which is available through financial reports, it was clear that NGOs account for a not insignificant amount of public spending and employment, with an astonishing €6 BILLION in state funding distributed to NGOS in 2020 alone.
State funding accounts for the vast bulk of the income of the NGOs, with just 4% of them receiving over 90% of that money in 2020. NGOs employed over 165,000 people.
While the “non-governmental sector” formally includes everyone from Barnardos to a local bingo, the funding and structure of the major companies indicates that they have little or anything in common. So, when we are applying a critical eye to NGOs in general, we are not claiming that they are all the same.
Likewise, while it could be argued that the top levels of the NGO sector constitute a distinct economic category, in relative terms the companies involved are only a tiny minority of the almost 33,000 such entities which were listed under that general rubric in 2020, in which year just 145 NGOs accounted for almost €10,000,000,000 in turnover and 70% of “charitable income” gleaned from the State and its citizens.
There were 195 NGOs which employed 100 or more people and the bulk of their expenditure, two thirds or 66%, went to pay wages and administration costs. To illustrate the difference between the new type of NGO and the more traditional charities, very few of which survive in their old form, we refer to the example of the Guild of the Little Flower in Dublin’s Liberties.
The Guild have been providing basic provision in this part of Dublin for generations, many of which witnessed poverty unimaginable in the era of social welfare. In 2018, they received just €24,000 of its income of €761,000 from the state and managed to pay the wages of 14 people. The Guild would be considered to be “reactionary” by many of the Woke NGO apparatchiks who seem to be driven by an impulse to expand the categories of state dependents.
They would be positioned as the mediators for the growing class of dependents, of course, with the public purse stretched further by admin and staff costs for each NGO even when obviously duplicating both purpose and services. Milovan Djilas coined the term “New Class” for the parasitic layer of bureaucrats and party officials who had replaced the expropriated property-owning classes in Yugoslavia and the other socialist states. The same description could be applied here.
Djilas recognised that they played no productive function and in the end their incompetence and corruption and lack of accountability led to the collapse of socialism as an economic system. They and their apologists justified their status with reference to the fallacy that they were the representatives of the proletariat and peasantry who were now the formal owners of the factories and farms.
The left has by and large abandoned its belief in socialism. You only have to read Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty’s interview yesterday on his party’s economic “vision” to understand that they are just another tax and spend liberal party.
What the left has not abandoned of course is its devotion to the state, and what it does share with the bankrupt former New Class of the socialist states is its almost complete dependence on the state for its social position. Not only does this, mainly through the NGOs, open up a significant pool of employment and resources, but it also allows the left to unduly influence the political direction of the state even when it has not yet succeeded in capturing state power.
We also looked in June 2020 at the height of the Lockdown at how the NGOs were set to prosper through the “pandemic.” At that time this was a purely anecdotal and subjective view but also based on the fact that the state was clearly channelling large amounts of the Covid funding through NGOs.
Even though anecdotal evidence also suggested that communities were falling back on their own resources and that the key factors in looking after older and more vulnerable people were old fashioned good neighbourliness – Comhar an gComharsan – rather than state-funded bodies whose websites were taken up with explaining how they needed to protect their own staff so like don’t expect us to be doing your shopping, Granny.
In May 2020 Minister Michael Ring announced the donation of millions more funding to NGOs in order to assist them in addressing “the impact of inequality in both health and socio-economic terms.” Well, they’ve done alright, it seems, as the overall funding for the sector increased to €6.2 billion in 2021.
And lest anyone try to tell you that little has changed with regard to the NGOs over the past 15 years or so – basically since Fianna Fáil thought that one of the better uses for the tax revenue of the Celtic Tiger would be to throw billions at the “community sector” in the belief that it would keep them in power – consider this:
In 2007, there were 45,000 people employed in 19,000 community and other NGOs with a turnover of €2.5 billion. Now there are more than 165,000 people employed, and turnover is over €14 billion.
So, in effect the NGO sector has quadrupled in absolute size since that time, and by a factor of around 8 in terms of state funding – which in itself is an indication of inefficiency. It also shows no sign of slowing down. It is as significant a social and economic change as any that have taken place in the Irish Republic in living memory.
In common with other such changes, it has brought about significant shifts in social, political and – dare one say it – class structures and relations. We shall be exploring this in greater detail, with specific regard to the composition and nature of the NGO elite. And posing once again the question: Who exactly are they, what do they do and to whose benefit?