TD urges inquiry into pro-life group seeking €7,000 donations

Family and Life accused of targeting ‘vulnerable, elderly people’

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 16:34

A Fine Gael TD has called for an investigation into a pro-life organisation which brought 13 politicians to New York and Washington last March and is now soliciting donations of up to €7,000 from individuals.

Jim Daly said Family and Life was sending out letters seeking a fighting fund for a legal case to a “targeted audience, primarily vulnerable, elderly people”.

Mr Daly used Dáil privilege to name Family and Life, and said a letter received by a constituent of his from them “deserves a more strong light to be shone in on that organisation”.

In March last year, Family and Life brought 10 Oireachtas politicians to New York and Washington on a pro-life research trip. These were TDs James Bannon, Terence Flanagan, Peter Mathews, Mattie McGrath, John O’Mahony and Jim Walsh, and Senators Paul Bradford, Fidelma Healy Eames, Brian Ó Domhnaill and Paschal Mooney. They also brought Northern politicians Paul Givan, Pat Ramsey MLA and Ian Paisley jnr.

Asked about the financing of the trip, Mr Bradford said: “I have no idea how they raise funds. It is quite entitled to raise money within the law.”

He noted the organisation was looking to raise funds from €30 to €7,000 from individuals and said Mr Daly should raise the issue with Family and Life if he had concerns about it.

Mr Bradford added the trip to New York and Washington was an “educational, fact-finding trip” and not a political one.

On foot of the US visit, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) wrote to both Family and Life and the politicians involved inquiring whether the trip might need to be declared as a donation for political purposes.

According to a SIPO official, none of the politicians who responded stated that it was a political trip, while Family and Life has denied it is a political lobby group.

SIPO wrote again to Family and Life but has no powers to make the organisation comply with legislation covering political lobby groups.

Mr Daly said the letter referred to was received by an elderly constituent who was distressed by its contents.

The letter states that the group needs money to expose “one of the dirtiest, most deceitful and underhanded parts of Kenny’s drive to push his abortion law through the Dáil”.

It goes on to state that it needs to fight a legal case against both SIPO, which it calls “Government bullies”, and the “pro-abort press”.

Family and Life has already had a legal opinion on the case and is seeking a second one, it states.

The letter, signed by Family and Life founder David Manly and sent in late October, looks to raise €28,000.

It adds: “Does your blessings allow a gift that would pay 10 per cent of what is needed to defend ourselves, that’s a gift of €2,800?

“Is there a way you can fund 20 per cent of what this fight against Government intimidation will cost? That means sacrificing €5,600.

“Has our Lord rewarded you with blessings that lets you assume one quarter of this burden with a gift of €7,000?”

Potential donors are asked to donate by direct debit, by ringing the Family and Life offices or responding to its email address at fandl@iol.ie.

Mr Daly said the letter was “unbelievable” and had left his constituent “distressed with the content, the tone and the pressure”.

He maintained that seeking funds for legal advice was “not a charitable endeavour”.

The letter was aimed at “God-fearing, good-living people who are being led to believe that this is a charitable case. Irrespective of the substantial issue, soliciting monies like this from people at the time of a recession is extraordinary.

“They [Family and Life] have questions to answer about this. I’d like to see openness and transparency in this arena and in any other arena when it is a charitable organisation. We need as a society to define what is charity.”

Family and Life are based in Mountjoy Square and have been active since 1996. Mr Manly said he had “no comment” when contacted by The Irish Times.