Iona Institute company got €275,000 in donations last year

Religious lobby group has €300,000 in cash reserves before possible abortion poll, files show

The company behind the religious advocacy group, the Iona Institute, received donations of almost €275,000 last year.

The Iona Institute is a trading name of Lolek Company Limited by Guarantee, a non-profit entity with the stated objective of promoting and advancing “marriage and religion in society”.

Accounts just filed to the Companies Office show that the firm has accumulated cash reserves of more than €300,000 ahead of a possible referendum campaign on the issue of abortion.

The Institute spent almost €200,000 on its campaign for a No vote in the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015.


Last year, Lolek received donations totalling €273,042 and had boosted its cash reserves by 20 percent to €304,032 at the end of 2016.

There is no breakdown in the accounts of the source of the donations.

The accounts show the company employs two staff and that the amount spent on remuneration increased by 21 percent to €92,301 last year.

The institute said that in 2014 it was employing an intern but in 2015 it hired a research officer in his place. It said the appointment was the reason for the increase in staff pay rather than existing staff receiving a raise.*

Overhead costs

Other overhead costs for the firm included consultancy, research and speaker fees totalling €48,079; as well as travel and entertainment costing €10,149. A total of €18,189 was spent on advertising and market research.

The company's directors are Dr John Murray, Sean Ascough, Tom Ascough, and Mark Hamilton.

Dr Murray is a lecturer at Mater Dei Institute of Education, while Tom and Sean Ascough have been involved in youth evangelisation programmes for a number of years, according to the Iona Institute website.

Mr Hamilton is the principal of Rockbrook Park, a private school affiliated with Opus Dei.

The donations received by Lolek during 2016 represented an increase of 82 percent compared to the previous year, although the yield for 2015 was supplemented by donations of €205,607 received separately for use in the same-sex marriage referendum campaign.

On its website, the Iona Institute states that it promotes the place of marriage and religion in society, while also promoting freedom of conscience and religion. It is headed by religious and social affairs commentator David Quinn.

The Institute is expected to play a prominent role in any future referendum campaign on the Eighth Amendment and the issue of abortion.

On Saturday, the Citizens’ Assembly voted to recommend a Constitutional referendum to amend the existing abortion ban, and the body met again Sunday to deliver its final decision.

A report on the deliberations of the assembly will be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

*This article was amended on April 23rd, 2017.