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Jeffrey Donaldson’s peace ‘institute’ changes name after authorities step in

Exclusive: New DUP leader’s company, which has received Foreign Office funding, rebranded after questions over right to call itself an ‘institute’

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Peter Geoghegan Martin Williams
9 July 2021, 10.24am
Jeffrey Donaldson has faced defections from his party
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A peace-building business headed by new Democratic Unionist leader Jeffrey Donaldson ‘rebranded’ after being contacted by Companies House over its use of the word ‘institute’ without permission.

The Causeway Institute of Peace-building and Conflict Resolution (CIPCR International), which is based in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, has been running since 2010. It is owned by Donaldson’s brother Kingsley. Jeffrey chairs the advisory board.

Donaldson, who was appointed DUP leader last month, is a long-term critic of the Good Friday Agreement and has promised to oppose the Northern Ireland protocol.

Causeway has received contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Foreign Office for work around the world, including in Bahrain, Egypt and Moldova.

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But questions were raised after openDemocracy asked Companies House in May whether Causeway had permission to call itself an ‘institute’.

Branding change

The use of the word ‘institute’ is protected by law and reserved for established organisations “that typically undertake research at the highest level, or are professional bodies of the highest standing”.

It is an offence for a company to call itself an ‘institute’ without permission from Companies House and the business secretary.

Neither Jeffrey nor Kingsley Donaldson responded to openDemocracy’s questions about Causeway’s name at the time, but on 24 May, a message appeared on its website saying that “as a result to changes to our branding and naming, CIPCR International will be know [sic] colloquially as the Causeway Initiative”.

Companies House told openDemocracy last week: “We have been in contact with the company. The matter is now resolved.”

The word institute is obviously to impress people and that can generate revenue and create profit

Institutes do not have privileged access to funding but the word is generally attributed to not-for-profit organisations, particularly academic bodies.

“The word institute tries to legitimise the entity with a particularly skewed image that it’s engaged in public service. But the fact that it has shareholders casts doubt on that,” said Prem Sikka, a professor of accounting and member of the House of Lords.

“[A company might want to use the word ‘institute’] to create an aura that its purpose is the spread of education and other public services. It is obviously to impress people and that can generate revenue and create profit.”

A veteran Northern Irish political consultant, who has worked on numerous peace-building projects, told openDemocracy that the ‘institute’ title had given Causeway “an aura of independence that it just didn’t have”.

Companies House has previously censured firms that have used ‘institute’ without permission.

In 2017, Daniel Hannan, a leading Brexiteer turned House of Lords member, had to change the name of his Institute for Free Trade after using ‘institute’ without permission.

The organisation changed its name to the Initiative for Free Trade after facing an inquiry from Companies House over its name.

Infighting and defections

Jeffrey and Kingsley Donaldson previously sued openDemocracy following a report about Causeway. The case was never taken to court.

CIPCR International Ltd, the company behind Causeway, is owned by Kingsley Donaldson. Jeffrey Donaldson was previously a director of another company, CIPCR Ltd, alongside his brother and DUP colleague, Emma Little-Pengelly. This company was struck off in December 2019.

The Donaldsons, Ian Paisley Junior and Little-Pengelly also set up a consultancy called Qubric in 2012. It was dissolved last year.

Donaldson, who was made a trade envoy to Egypt by the former British prime minister David Cameron, is also chairman of the Belfast-based company, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.

He became DUP leader after Edwin Poots resigned after only three weeks into the role. Donaldson has said that he will oppose the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.

The new leader has faced early challenges, with infighting and defections in recent weeks.

The protocol has caused major tensions within unionism but has been hailed by some in Northern Irish business circles.

Earlier this year, Pinnacle Growth Group, a Belfast-based consultancy of which Kingsley Donaldson is a director, hailed Brexit as “an opportunity for Northern Ireland businesses to promote themselves to the Great Britain market as having fewer administrative requirements to trade when compared to their European Union counterparts”.

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