State stops funding for Catholic marriage courses
The State has moved to cut funding for the Catholic Church's marriage preparation courses ahead of the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage.
Bishop Denis Nulty, president of Accord Catholic marriage care service, confirmed the child and family agency Tusla wrote to the agency to inform them of the withdrawal of some funding.
The decision by Tusla is expected to be cited by 'No' campaigners as an effort to undermine the institution of marriage.
Dr Nulty said he was "very disappointed" at the decision, which would "certainly undermine a vital service provided to women and men preparing for marriage".
He stated the Accord service received a letter from Tusla, stating: "Following confirmation of Tusla's budget for 2015 by Minister (James) Reilly on 27 April... a decision has been made to withdraw funding for Marriage Preparation Courses from 2015 onwards."
Bishop of Elphin, Dr Kevin Doran, told the 'Irish Catholic': "It seems to me that if the State does have a commitment to marriage, as the Constitution requires it to do, it is a rather strange move to be withdrawing funding from pre-marriage preparation courses.
"It remains to be seen whether this is part of a wider policy of the Government," he added.
Last year, Accord, which does not support the referendum on gay marriage on May 22, received €1.992m in funding from Tusla and this year will receive just €1.6m.
The Tusla funding for marriage preparation courses in 2015 would have amounted to €360,000.
Accord stated demand for courses has increased year-on-year over the last five years, with 15,500 men and women participating last year.
However, Tusla has rejected reports that funding to Accord has been reduced because of Government pressure.
It stated it "does not favour any religion or culture".
The organisation said it seeks at all times to prioritise the wellbeing and protection of children through its budget allocation.
"It is important to note that no influence was exerted on Tusla by the minister, or the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, in relation to Accord's funding for 2015," said the statement.
It pointed out organisations were informed following the final sign-off on the budget by Children's Minister James Reilly and the Tusla board.
"While Tusla values the work of marriage preparation courses and recognises their value for the long-term benefit of children it was necessary at a time of limited resources to prioritise those services operating more directly at the front line.
"A number of services offered by Accord match this criteria and will be funded by Tusla," it added.