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Home / News / NWCI says it spent around €50,000 on Yes campaigns

NWCI says it spent around €50,000 on Yes campaigns

The National Women’s Council of Ireland spent around €50,000 campaigning for Yes votes in last week’s referendums on Family and Care which were rejected by voters.

The organisation has insisted that did not spend any State money on lobbying the public.

It said the precise figure of its expenditure will not be available until the organisation receives the final invoices.

The organisation, which receives some State funding, has been criticised for campaigning for yes votes in the referendums.

Some groups have come in for serious criticism, and in some instances, from people who say they misjudged their members’ views and perhaps more seriously from others who allege that they breached rules on the spending of public money on advocating a position in a referendum.

In 1995 the Supreme Court ruled in the McKenna case that “the use of public funds to promote in a one-sided manner a particular outcome to a referendum was constitutionally impermissible”.

In their campaign literature, Lawyers for No said: “The use of Government funded NGOs to promote a yes vote violates the McKenna principles on the conduct of referendums.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne earlier this week, Senator Rónán Mullen, who advocated a no vote in the referendums, questioned whether the National Women’s Council of Ireland had spent public money on campaigning for yes votes.

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Senator Mullen said: “The state-funded NGOs, 95% of staffing from the NWC, they’re being funded by the State, out there campaigning for a referendum in what seems like clear violation of the McKenna judgement principles.”

Claire Byrne put it to him that the NWCI said it fundraised specifically to pay for the campaign and its role in the campaign.

In an earlier statement, the NWCI said: “We have registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and will comply fully with the regulations regarding fundraising for political campaigning. We are compliant with the Mc Kenna judgement by not spending any public funds on this referendum.”

While the Minister for Children Equality is currently abroad as part of St Patrick’s Day events, a spokesman for Roderic O’Gorman said: “The Minister is confident that NGOs were aware of their obligations in relation to the use of public funds during the referendum and pointed to the statement above.”

Responding to further queries, the NWCI said it had spent €50,000 on the referendums but said the final figure will not be available until the organisation receives the final invoices.

The spokesperson said: “We used our Unrestricted Funding (which is not public funds) and a small amount of donations on this campaign.”

The spokesperson also said the claim by Senator Mullen that 95% of its staff had campaigned on the referendums was incorrect and said: “47% (10) of our staff campaigned in this referendum on a part-time basis. This time has been recorded and paid for from our unrestricted reserves and not from public funds.”

Efforts to reach Family Carers Ireland were unsuccessful.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) said it did not have a role in examining whether NGOs breached the McKenna principles.

In a statement, it said: “While the Standards in Public Office Commission has a role under the Electoral Act 1997 in regard to third parties receiving donations for political purposes, including for a referendum campaign, it has no role concerning the expenditure of public monies by non-governmental organisations in such a campaign.”

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