In August 2016, CNA broke the news that documents that had been reportedly hacked from the Open Society Foundations and posted to the site DCLeaks.com included a strategy proposal targeting Ireland's pro-life amendment.
The groups apparently intended to serve a role in this strategy were the Abortion Rights Campaign, Amnesty International Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association.
The strategy suggested that a pro-abortion rights victory in Ireland "could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places."
Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland had received about $29,500 from the foundations in 2016, but returned it later that year after being contacted by the standards commission, which warned that the organization could be reported to the national police.
On Dec. 8, Amnesty International objected that the commission in 2016 told the organization that its work against Ireland's abortion laws, including work supported by the Open Societies Foundations, did not violate the election funding law. The organization cited the election commission's 2003 suggestion that the law's definition of "political purposes" was too broad and could regulate many unintended groups, specifically naming Amnesty International.
O'Gorman contended that it was not clear why the commission reversed its position. He said his organization's critics have "portrayed foreign funding as somehow sinister." He contended that the Irish law contradicted the Irish government's criticisms of "draconian anti-NGO laws elsewhere."
Sherlock stressed the importance of the stated purpose of the Open Society Foundations grant: "to assist the coordination of groups in Ireland with a view to repealing the Eighth Amendment and taking away legal protection for the baby in the womb."
She said the involvement of the U.S.-based foundations represented "a gross interference in our democracy and in safeguarding the right to life."
Amnesty International was neutral on abortion until April 2007, when its leadership decided to support decriminalization of abortion. The change resulted in protests and resignations from leading Catholics and other objectors to abortion among the membership.
At present, Ireland's Standards in Public Office Commission is also in talks with the Irish Family Planning Association, which received $150,000 from the Open Society Foundations in 2016, because of possible violations of the Republic of Ireland's election laws on political funding.
A spokeswoman for the Irish Family Planning Association said that in 2016 the association and the commission agreed that the grant did not require the association to register as a "third party" organization under election funding rules. She said the money was not being used for campaign purposes, the Irish Times reports.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
There has been more recent correspondence, and the family planning association is again in discussions with the commission.
Ui Bhriain said that pro-abortion rights campaigners see Ireland as "the jewel in the crown of the pro-life movement." Ireland shows "you don't need abortion to protect women or to make them safe in pregnancy."
She cited the country's "excellent" maternal healthcare and its U.N. ranking as among the safest places to have a baby.
"Ireland is proof that we can best serve mother and baby without abortion, and that a compassionate and truly progressive nation rejects the violence of abortion," she said.
"That makes us a prime target for the global abortion industry, and, in the next six months, we will see them working night and day to help overturn our pro-life law in this upcoming referendum."
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.