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Charity watchdog rejects complaint against Dark Hedges group

The Dark Hedges in Co Antrim, a tree-lined road made famous by Game of Thrones. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Brendan Hughes

A CHARITY watchdog has rejected a complaint against a Dark Hedges preservation group in Co Antrim headed by a DUP MLA.

The Dark Hedges Preservation Trust (DHPT) aims to protect the tree-lined avenue near Armoy made famous by TV drama Game of Thrones.

In September it emerged the Charity Commission was examining DHPT over a complaint that it appeared to be seeking donations as a charity even though it is not registered as one.

DHPT, chaired by the DUP's Mervyn Storey, had applied to the watchdog for formal charity status some years ago, but was refused.

An online donations page included a box saying, "charity information – Dark Hedges Preservation Trust".

However, the Charity Commission said it "looked into this matter and found no evidence to uphold the allegation that the organisation had represented itself as a charity to the public".

To be recognised as a charity, a group must meet criteria including that it has exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit.

An organisation refused charity status can still operate and raise money, but cannot represent itself to the public as a charity.

The Charity Commission encouraged anyone wishing to donate to a registered charity to "undertake some simple checks first, including looking for the charity's NIC (Northern Ireland Charity) number".

Last month, Stormont civil servants introduced a traffic ban on Bregagh Road to help protect the Dark Hedges – one of the most photographed natural landmarks in Ireland.

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