A group campaigning for the repeal of the constitutional amendment that prohibits abortion has confirmed it returned funding it received from an international organisation following correspondence with the ethics watchdog.
However, the Abortion Rights Campaign said that while it returned a funding grant from Open Society Foundation on advice from the Standards in Public Office, it does not agree with SIPO’s interpretation on the funding,.
Electoral laws dictate that third parties such as campaign groups cannot accept donations from foreign sources which would be used for “political purposes”.
According to documents released to the Irish Catholic newspaper, SIPO informed the Abortion Rights Campaign that it was of the view that a grant of $24,999 awarded by the Open Society Foundation, which is funded by billionaire George Soros, fell foul of legislation.
Despite returning the grant as directed, the Abortion Rights Campaign disputed SIPO’s definition of the grant and said it was “to fund educational and stigma-busting projects.”
“Our focus remains on advocating for reproductive rights while striving to lift the stigma surrounding abortion in Ireland. Every cent we receive goes back into the movement towards choice, change and destigmatising abortion in Ireland,” ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said.
A spokesperson for SIPO said it could not comment on individual cases.
“The Electoral Acts provide that any individual or group, other than a registered political party or election candidate, who or which accepts, in a particular calendar year, a donation for political purposes exceeding the value of €100 must, on receipt of the donation, register with the Standards Commission,” a statement from SIPO said.
“A donation means any contribution given for political purposes.”
“A third party is prohibited under the Electoral Acts from accepting a foreign donation,” it added.
SIPO said it defines a foreign donation as “a donation, of whatever value, from an individual other than an Irish citizen who resides outside the island of Ireland or from a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which one or more of its principal activities is directed.”