Government denies links to Catholic agency cuts and referendum
Government has denied reports it cut funding to the Catholic counselling service Accord, which provides marriage preparation courses, because of the Church's position on the marriage referendum.
The agency’s president Bishop Denis Nulty said he found the timing “curious” and voiced concerns about the move to cut €378,000 from its funding.
"It's curious that a letter would arrive to use on May 7… [when] we're talking a lot about marriage… and would agencies like Accord be at risk of funding cuts if the definition of marriage changed." he said.
Read More: State stops funding for Catholic marriage courses
Speaking on Newstalk radio, Mr Nulty said the decision had given weight to church fears that religious agencies would be “starved of funding” for not supporting the government's “agenda”.
He said last year the service gave 45,00 hours of counselling to more than 15,000 couples, adding that the cuts would be “a huge blow” to the service it offers.
However, Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, said the link between the two was “unfair” given that his agency had also had its funding cut despite calling for a “Yes” vote in next week’s same-sex referendum.
“I think it's a bit unfair to suggest that this is linked to something else that is going on - the idea that their cut is because of the Catholic Church's attitude to the referendum," he said.
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"How then have we also been cut in the same time [period], since we are supporting the referendum? It doesn’t make sense to me."
A spokesman for the Children's Minister James Reilly has said the decision has nothing to do with the upcoming referendum.
Accord runs 55 centres across Ireland, offer counselling and advice services for married couples.