Last night Dublin City Councillors voted against a ban on charity shops on Grafton Street. It's easy to dismiss this an empty victory (really, will any more charities want to open there?) and a few people asked me why I was bothering to get involved with this. But let me tell you why it's significant:
Firstly it would have continued choking philanthropy. Intentionally or not we often reward those that seek personal profit and penalise those that wish to do good. This would have done the same - like I said before, I'd be welcome to open an art gallery/tailors/barber/Brown Thomas as long as it's for personal profit, but not if it the profits go towards changing and saving lives.
Secondly, Grafton Street would have only been the start. Like all terrible people and terrible ideas they test the water, and if nobody kicks up a fuss then it keeps going and getting worse until one day our children ask how we could have let it happen. If this had of gone through then Henry Street would be next, then O'Connell Street, then one day charity shops can only exist in crappy areas and they are no longer a viable source of income.
Finally, it treats charities as second class. It's the assumption that charity shops are ugly. That only poor ugly people shop there. That charity shops couldn't run something more successfully and profitably than HMV. Rubbish.
Dublin City Council's process also highlighted that 16 councillors have a completely outdated view of charity shops and absolutely no foresight.
And the fact the council only received 3 objections from the public is unacceptable - the charity sector needs to rally around issues like this. It might not affect you today, but one day stupid decisions like this will, and I'm sure you'd like to think that the thousands of charities out there and hundreds of thousands of workers in the sector will support you.
[Finally, on a side note - I can not get over the number of people saying that charities spending rent on Grafton Street would be a waste of money. Why is it a waste for charities and not businesses? Surely everyone is on that street to make money. The difference is charities would use 'profits' to do good.]