Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International’s executive director, said in a Dec. 8 statement that it would oppose the election funding law.
“Ireland is targeting Amnesty International purely for its human rights work,” he claimed.
The organization is backing repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Republic of Ireland’s constitution. The amendment, passed by voters in 1983, acknowledges “the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”
“Amnesty International will not be complying with the instruction from the SIPOC and will deploy every means at its disposal to challenge this unfair law,” said O’Gorman.
He claimed the instruction is “an indefensible attack on human rights defenders” and shows the election funding law is a threat to civil society organizations in the country.
However, Cora Sherlock, deputy chairperson of The Pro-Life Campaign, characterized the Amnesty statement as “nothing more than a public relations exercise to disguise the fact that they have been receiving vast sums of money from abroad to fund their campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.”
“Amnesty are behaving like they are above the law and are hiding behind the term ‘human rights’ as a justification for everything they do,” she said Dec. 8. “Amnesty should immediately return the money and stop trying to portray itself as a victim in all of this.”
The effort to repeal the amendment is expected to launch in February 2018, The Irish Times reports.
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.
(Story cotinues below)
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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.