US group denies Sipo claims that funding for abortion campaign was political

US financier George Soros

The US foundation which awarded funding to Amnesty Ireland for its campaign against Ireland’s abortion laws has taken issue with the State ethics watchdog’s claims that it had said the money was for “political purposes”.

Open Society Foundations (OSF) said it has written to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) calling on it to correct the record on the matter.

Amnesty Ireland recently revealed that Sipo had ordered it to return a €137,000 grant the human rights group had received from the George Soros-backed OSF.

Amnesty said it would not be returning the funding, despite Sipo’s warning that the payment was prohibited under campaigning financing laws, which ban overseas donations to bodies which use the funding for political purposes.

Last week, Sipo said it became aware that “several Irish organisations had received donations from a foreign donor”, but that it had “received assurances from the recipients that the donations were not for political purposes”.

Sipo said it subsequently “received written confirmation from the donor that the funding was for explicitly political purposes”.

OSF yesterday disputed Sipo’s account of events, saying it had “at no time” confirmed to Sipo “that a €137,000 grant given by our Women’s Rights Program to Amnesty International Ireland in 2016 was for political purposes”.

The foundation said Sipo’s comments on “documentary evidence” it received may refer to internal OSF files leaked by hackers.

“As Open Society has noted to Sipo in correspondence, these documents were not dispositive of our intent as a donor,” it said. “Rather, they were part of an ongoing discussion on how best to strengthen women’s reproductive rights across Europe.

“Furthermore, the legal scope of the grant given to Amnesty International is determined by the language of the grant agreement, and not by any other document.”

Sipo declined to comment last night.

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