“Together for Yes”, the pro-choice umbrella group, has published a list of organisations which have signed up to their campaign as “platform members”.
Of the 20 organisations which have signed up, 11 are either fully or partially funded by taxpayers money. These groups receive money directly from Government Departments or from state agencies such as Pobal who act as intermediaries to distribute State funding.
Under the McKenna judgment of the Supreme Court in 1994, it is illegal for the State to fund one side of referendum campaign, so this raises serious questions for these 11 groups.
The most extreme case is that of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), one of the three founding groups of “Together for Yes”. This group receives approximately €850,000 from Irish or EU taxpayers, which is about 85% of its total funding. According to its 2016 annual report, it spends €512,000 of this amount on salaries and benefits for its staff, including a salary of over €70,000 for its director, Orla O’Connor. Ms O’Connor is listed as a director of “Together for Yes” and has attended all of their press events to date.
Clearly, this raises the prospect that State funds are being used to indirectly support one side of the referendum campaign.
More to follow.