‘Progressive’ NGOs and influencing voters

Public funds and referendum campaigns

Sir, – During an interview with The Irish Times, Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman said “any organisation that sees itself as progressive and as wanting to advance progressive change” would have to explain why they do not support the plans (“‘Progressive’ organisations must explain any decision not to support referendum, says Minister”, News, January 1st).

It’s fortunate that the vast majority of women in Ireland are not on his payroll and therefore under no obligation to explain their vote.

The Constitution as it stands specifically guarantees the right of both men and women to have work and earn money. The article in question elevates and honours the value of women’s work in the family and home.

The article also confers rights on women, never so far exercised, to not be pressurised into working outside the home due to financial issues.


The proposed constitutional change deletes this acknowledgement of the valuable and central role that women play in society through their work in the home.

I will be voting No. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Individual political parties are entitled to spend their own funds to advocate for a particular outcome in a referendum; however, the Government and its Ministers are explicitly prohibited from using public funds to promote one outcome over another. The organisations that Mr O’Gorman was exhorting to promote a Yes vote are NGOs, many of which are directly funded by the Government.

It is not a stretch of the imagination to see this intervention as an instruction to Government-funded organisations to advocate for a Yes vote.

In the 1995 Supreme Court McKenna judgment on the use of Government funds in referendums, Mr Justice Hugh O’Flaherty stated that “the Government must stop short of spending public money in favour of one side which has the consequence of being to the detriment of those opposed to the constitutional amendment. To spend money in this way breaches the equality rights of the citizen enshrined in the Constitution as well as having the effect of putting the voting rights of one class of citizen (those in favour of the change) above those of another class of citizen (those against)”.

Citizens are entitled to a fair referendum process, the outcome of which is free from Government interference.

Any attempt to co-opt non-governmental organisations reliant on Government funding to intercede with the democratic process would be undemocratic and must not be permitted to happen. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.

Sir, – On the face of it, the Minister’s comments seem more than a little “regressive” and verging on interference in the democratic process. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – The Minister’s comments seem rather high-handed. It also begs the question as to what is “progressive”. Mr O’Gorman regards Article 42.1 as saying to women that their “duties” are in the home. Actually it speaks first of their “lives” in the home and only later refers to “duties”, but in the context of mothers not being forced out to work “by economic necessity”.

Maybe the article should also speak of the lives and duties of fathers in the home, but that is not the constitutional change being proposed.

I haven’t made my mind up yet on whether to vote or how to vote, but hectoring talk like this from the Minister will drive me in one direction only. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.