FUNDING: Two anti-abortion groups have confirmed they receive funds from abroad but insist the amounts are small, while a new American organisation run by a former Cóir worker aims to “help Ireland remain abortion-free”.
The Dublin-based Pro-Life Campaign
and Life Institute both say they expect to increase their spending this
year on “educational” projects.
Cora Sherlock, the spokeswoman for the
Pro-Life Campaign, based on Lower Baggot Street, said more than €200,000
was spent last year and that figure was likely to increase in 2013
“given the current debate on abortion”.
Asked if the organisation had
received donations for political and campaigning purposes last year, Ms
Sherlock said a “small sum”.
“However, given the Government’s
plans, it is inevitable that political advocacy will form a big part of
what we do in 2013,” she said. “We have received small amounts from
abroad but nothing significant. The Pro-Life Campaign does not actively
fundraise abroad and any monies received are spent on educational
Niamh Uí Bhriain, the spokeswoman for the Capel
Street-based Life Institute, said her organisation ran campaigns in
conjunction with Youth Defence, which has the same address.
Asked if the
organisation had received donations for political and campaigning
purposes last year, Ms Uí Bhriain said the organisation engaged only in
“awareness and educational projects”.
said “very little” funds were received from abroad. The Pro-Life
Campaign is registered with the Standards in Public Office commission
(Sipo); the Life Institute is not.
Scott Schittl is the director
of Life House Ireland, which describes itself as an “American,
tax-exempt” organisation. During the second Lisbon Treaty referendum in
2009, he was campaign co-ordinator for Cóir, which operated from the
same Capel Street address as Youth Defence and the Life Institute. Life
House Ireland’s donation web page suggests amounts of $20-$5,000.
our bylaws, we have stringent tests to prevent any contribution from
going to anything but informational and educational projects,” it
Separately, Family and Life, based on Mountjoy Square in
Dublin, has a campaign target fund of €40,000. The organisation’s
director, David Manly, invites supporters to join its “eternal friends
society”, reserved for those including the organisation in their will or
“Our opponents are awash with money, some of which comes from
your taxes,” Mr Manly says on the site.
Sipo has confirmed it is
seeking or has sought answers from six groups not registered with the
ethics watchdog. On the pro-choice side, the groups are the Irish Family
Planning Association, Action on X and Choice Ireland, while on the
anti-abortion side the groups are the Life Institute, Youth Defence and
Unite for Life.
Action on X says it raised no more than €700 last
year to pay for room rental and printing costs. The organisation is an
alliance of groups and individuals, including Irish Choice Network,
Choice Ireland, Irish Feminist Network and Feminist Open Forum.
group affiliated to it, the Irish Choice Network, said it had raised
€1,500 in 2011 to cover printing costs for posters and information
leaflets through individual donations of less than €100. The Irish
Choice Network said it had raised a further €1,400 to go towards the
development of a national “abortion rights campaign”.
anti-abortion groups say organisations advocating a pro-choice stance
benefit from millions of euro from US philanthropist Chuck Feeney and
Irish Council for Civil Liberties director Mark
Kelly insisted Mr Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies had no say in the
content of the organisation’s programmatic work.
“They fund the
ICCL because it is a wholly independent human rights watchdog. I have no
idea what Chuck Feeney’s position is on abortion, and no interest in
finding out,” Mr Kelly said.