Saturday 1 October 2016

Billionaire Soros funding groups fighting to repeal Irish abortion ban

Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30

Billionaire George Soros has given financial assistance to Irish organisations Photo: REUTERS/Pascal Lauener
Billionaire George Soros has given financial assistance to Irish organisations Photo: REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

A foundation headed up by George Soros, one of the world's richest people, is providing financial backing to organisations seeking to repeal the constitutional prohibition of abortion.

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A leaked strategy document details how Soros's Open Society Foundation planned to fund Amnesty International Ireland, the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Irish Family Planning Association.

The move was said to be part of a strategy to force the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, potentially setting off a chain reaction in other strongly Catholic countries in Europe.

The three organisations confirmed to the Irish Independent they had received grants from the foundation.

Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist Soros (86) is among the 30 wealthiest people in the world, with an estimated fortune of €22bn. He is thought to have donated almost €10bn to various causes in recent decades.

In the leaked strategy document, the foundation said it would fund the three Irish organisations "to work collectively on a campaign to repeal Ireland's constitutional amendment granting equal rights to an implanted embryo as the pregnant woman".

The document continued: "With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places.

"The recent legalisation of same-sex marriage offers valuable and timely opportunities to advance the campaign."

The Pro Life Campaign cried foul of Mr Soros's intervention.

"These revelations are extremely disturbing," said spokeswoman Cora Sherlock.

"The fact that an outside body is talking about funding and coordinating groups in Ireland to dismantle protection for the unborn child represents a gross interference and is an attack on democracy.

"I think most people want to see a fair debate regardless of where they stand on the issue.

"The public will be deprived of such a debate if this kind of meddling continues from well-funded outside bodies."

However, the three organisations involved defended their receipt of the funds.

Amnesty International Ireland said the funding it received from the foundation amounted to €137,000 over two years.

"Philanthropic foundations have always been an important source of funding for human rights work, both here in Ireland and globally," it said in a statement. "Amnesty International Ireland applied for and received funding from the Open Society Foundation to part fund our campaign on sexual and reproductive rights.

"In line with our commitment to high standards of transparency, and as with all areas of our funding, this is publicly reported upon, both to our membership and on our website when we publish our audited accounts."

Amnesty said the only conditions attached to the funding were that it be used for the programme of work outlined in the funding application and that it be publicly reported in financial statements.

The Irish Family Planning Association said it received a support grant of $150,000 (€132,500) from the foundation.

"The funding will be used to support the IFPA's long-standing advocacy to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in Ireland," it said in a statement.

It continued the conditions of the grant meant it was to be used to advance the association's "charitable purposes". It said the grant would be noted in its annual financial reports.

The Abortion Rights Campaign did not disclose the amount of funding it received, but said it would be disclosed in its financial statements.

Irish Independent

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