Saturday 18 November 2017

Bishop queries SVP's €45,000 gift to gay group

The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan
The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan

Sarah Mac Donald

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has strongly defended its decision to donate €45,000 to a Galway LGBT group which is trying to establish a resource centre in the city.

On Tuesday, the SVP received a letter from the Catholic bishop of Galway, Dr Martin Drennan, demanding clarification as to the grounds for the donation.

The SVP's response is due to land on the bishop's desk today, stating that the SVP National Management Council support is based on a key element of the SVP Christian ethos, which is "to be non-judgmental when its assistance is sought".

A spokesman for the SVP told the Irish Independent that none of the €45,000 comes from public donations or church gate collections.

"The money that has been granted comes from a specific fund, the Maureen O'Connell Fund, and so it has no direct connection to any of the other money spent by the SVP," Jim Walsh said.

He rejected suggestions that the money would be better spent on funding those more obviously in poverty, such as those asylum seekers trapped in direct provision or the elderly.

"The SVP spent €42m in 2012 on direct assistance to families," he said.

Nuala Ward, vice-chair of LGBT group Amach!, said they were "concerned that people would be misled by the bishop's letter into believing that we got this from the SVP fund, which is for people in need. We didn't".

The €45,000 will only partially cover the overall cost of renting and running the centre, which it is estimated will cost €225,000 for three years.

Last night Amach! extended an open invitation to Bishop Drennan to meet with the LGBT group to learn about their work and community development plans for the future.

"We would love to meet him in the future and we hope he will avail of this opportunity," said Ms Ward.

The centre is intended to be a safe space where LGBT people can address issues and concerns such as prejudice, isolation, loneliness, depression and the lack of opportunities to network with peers.

Fr Martin Whelan in the Galway diocesan office declined to comment on the matter until Bishop Drennan had had a chance to see the SVP's reply.

Irish Independent

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