Government had ‘no part’ in Accord funding cut, Reilly says

Minister for Children defends Tusla over reduction in money for Catholic agency

 Minister for Children Dr James Reilly. Dr Reilly said the Government had ‘no part’ in funding cuts to Catholic marriage support agency Accord. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly. Dr Reilly said the Government had ‘no part’ in funding cuts to Catholic marriage support agency Accord. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Government had “no hand, act or part” in the cutting of funding to the Catholic marriage support agency Accord, Minister for Children James Reilly has said.

During heated exchanges in the Dáil with Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Dr Reilly also defended Atlantic Philanthropies, which has donated €8 million to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla.

Mr McGrath accused the philanthropic organisation of interfering in the democratic process in Ireland.

The Tipperary South TD claimed it was involved in “a despicable attack on a sovereign state, which undermines what democracy is about, a free and unhindered vote of the people”.

He said Atlantic Philanthropies had donated €7 million to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, €5 million to Amnesty International Ireland, €8 million to Tusla and €4 million to Glen (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network).

Mr McGrath said that all of these agencies were doing the work of the Yes campaign for the same-sex marriage referendum.

Dr Reilly said: “I want to ensure no message from this House in any way undermines or disrespects the wonderful work Atlantic Philanthropies has done in this country.

“It is very much involved in early prevention for families that need support.”

Mr McGrath had raised the issue of the cut in Accord’s funding by Tusla from €1.992 million to €1.6 million.

The Minister said Tusla also cut funding to a number of other agencies, including children’s charity Barnardos, which supports a Yes vote in the marriage referendum.

Catholic opposition

Catholic hierarchy members claimed the cut in Accord’s funding was linked to the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Mr McGrath said the message it sent was that Catholic church agencies “will have to go whistle for their money and will get nothing”.

Dr Reilly said that “my department and I value very much the counselling and mediation service Accord provides to married couples. The same applies to Tusla, and that is why it continues to fund Accord”.

The Minister said he had made it clear that marriage preparation courses were not part of the core mission of Tusla. He also pointed out that the agency would spend €6 million this year on counselling services and more than one-quarter of that went to Accord.

“Tusla does not provide funding to any other dedicated marriage preparation courses.”

Mr McGrath had blamed the Minister for the letter Accord received announcing the cut, which was retrospective to January but dated this month, adding that Tusla said the Minister had not signed off on the budget.

Dr Reilly said that “there has been much comment on this issue over the past 24 hours and much of it ill-informed”.

He said he signed off on the budget in December 2014 and that Tusla’s “business plan was another matter entirely”.

The Minister said the “operational decision made by Tusla and signed off on by its board was its decision and the Government had no influence on it”.

Mr Reilly said: “The Government had no hand, act or part in it.”