Foreign influences. Irish consequences.
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Repeal supporters say that by legalising abortion, we can end the ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’ and start dealing with the issue of abortion ourselves.
But even though they talk about ending Ireland’s reliance on foreign countries, the repeal campaign has relied massively on foreign funding to drive its campaign.
The costs of running a campaign
The repeal campaign has been gathering steam for several years, and has recently captured the attention of Varadkar and Co.
In order to get politicians to focus on any particular issue, a successful campaign requires a lot of money.
Staff have to be paid, websites have to be built, and jumpers have to be knitted.
Along the way, the groups seeking to change Ireland’s abortion laws – the Abortion Rights Campaign, Amnesty International, etc – have drawn upon voluntary efforts by many supporters.
But they would not have gotten this far without significant foreign funding to sustain those working full-time to introduce abortion in Ireland.
American funding to Repeal the 8th
Much of this cash has come from one extraordinarily wealthy individual: George Soros.
Over the last few years, Soros has lavished funding on several of the main groups campaigning to legalise abortion in Ireland.
In August 2016, it was reported that his funding arm had channelled €137,000 towards Amnesty International Ireland over two years to help support the campaign for abortion in Ireland.
Amnesty weren’t the only ones in the repeal campaign to be cashing in.
The Irish Family Planning Association also received a grant of €132,500 from Soros, and the Abortion Rights Campaign got €23,460 from the same source.
Altogether, Soros has provided in the region of €300,000, more than enough to fund the sort of everyday activity which goes in to keeping a political campaign in the public eye for several years.
Breaking Ireland’s laws on campaign funding
Aside from being enormous, Soros’s donations also appear to have been illegal.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is Ireland’s ethics watchdog. One of its jobs is to monitor the funding of campaign groups, and foreign funding of organisations for political purposes is against the law.
SIPO investigated the Soros funding, and in April 2017 the Abortion Rights Campaign were compelled to return their grant.
In December, SIPO also instructed Amnesty International to return their €137,000 grant. Amnesty refused to give it back, and the case now rests with the High Court.
Why Soros has chosen to focus on Ireland
Why has Soros spent so much money trying to repeal the 8th Amendment?
The contents of a leaked strategy document from Soros’s foundation showed that they believe that the introduction of abortion to Ireland will set off a chain reaction in other countries.
To bring about this goal, they intended to fund Ireland’s repeal movement, including the extremists who are campaigning for abortion-on-demand up to birth.
Is foreign funding the new norm?
There are many reasons why foreign funding is not allowed in Irish politics.
If it was, foreign corporations could try to change laws which would directly benefit themselves.
Soros made his billions as an investor, profiting enormously from financial speculation.
Should a similarly wealthy individual decide to fund a campaign to change our laws on environmental protection or workers’ rights, there would likely be uproar.
Yet a precedent for large-scale foreign funding of Irish political campaigns now exists.
And the fact campaigns can benefit from illegal funding won’t have gone unnoticed.
Far from ending foreign influence in Ireland’s abortion debate, the repeal campaign has actually brought more foreign money and influence into Irish politics than ever before.
This too will be a legacy of repeal.