Call for inquiry into bishops’ spending on abortion campaign

Atheists claim Catholic website and newsletter overtly campaign for specific outcome

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) has been urged to examine the funding of the Catholic bishops’ referendum campaign in support of retaining the Eighth Amendment.

Atheist Ireland said it was "seeking clarification on whether certain distinct and autonomous legal entities, that are associated with the Catholic Church in Ireland, should have to register with Sipo, in light of their specific funding structures and their campaigning on political issues."

This was “with specific regard to the referendum about repealing the Eighth amendment to the Constitution,” it said in a statement.

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference earlier this year began an initiative called Choose Life 2018, it noted.


“This includes a website and a weekly printed newsletter sent to all dioceses around the country. Its stated purpose is to encourage discussion in families on the value of every human life,” the atheist group said.

“However, as well as doing this, this website and these weekly printed newsletters also overtly campaign for a particular outcome in the coming referendum on the eighth amendment to the Constitution.”

Atheist Ireland chair Michael Nugent pointed that it is "a voluntary advocacy group, registered with Sipo as a third party. Because of our support for Sipo and its regulations, we have declined donations that would have helped us with our political lobbying.

“However, we find that our work is undermined by political lobbying by other groups who have access to funding that we would be concerned about accepting.”

He recalled how “one of our previous requests was for Sipo to examine whether the Catholic Church should register as a third party. The Catholic Church argued at the time that it does not accept donations for political purposes, but instead uses its own money. We are now following up on this request.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times