‘It Was Amnesty Who First Approached Open Society’


George Soros and Colm O’Gorman, of Amnesty International Ireland

Readers may recall how Amnesty International Ireland is continuing to resist demands by the the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) to return a €137,000 donation to fund their campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.


Catherine Sanz and Michael Cogley, the Times Ireland edition, reported:

The OSF (Open Society Foundation) contradicted a statement issued by Sipo last Wednesday claiming that Sipo had received written confirmation from the donor that the funding was explicitly for political purposes. Sherry Perreault, head of ethics and lobbying at Sipo, said there had been “a bit of wordsmithing” from the OSF on the matter and that Sipo had verified documents relating to the donation.

There was documentary evidence received by the commission which was verified by the donor,” she said. “By virtue of verifying this information, the donor essentially clarified the intent.”

Fund backs Amnesty’s defiance of watchdog (Catherine Sanz, Michael Cogley, The Times Ireland edition)

Further to this…

Jonathan Birchall, Lead Communications Officer at OSF in New York, has released the following statement:

“The Open Society Foundation wishes to clarify that it has at no time confirmed to Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) that a €137,000 grant given by our Women’s Rights Program to Amnesty International Ireland (AI) in 2016 was for political purposes.

“Open Society has written to the regulator asking for any public statements to the contrary to be corrected.

“The grant in question was to fund AI’s My Body My Rights campaign, which seeks to mobilize support for a repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which effectively bans all forms of abortion in Ireland in violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.

In asserting that the grant was for “political purposes” SIPO’s head of ethics and lobbying, Sherry Perreault, was quoted in The Times of Ireland on December 20 as saying that there was “documentary evidence received by the commission which was verified by the donor” which “essentially clarified the intent.”

“The Open Society Foundations is concerned that the regulator may be referring to internal documents that were stolen from our servers and illegally published on the DC Leaks website in 2016, reportedly by hackers working for the Russian government seeking to publicly discredit our human rights work around the world.

“As Open Society has noted to SIPOC in correspondence, these documents were not dispositive of our intent as a donor. Rather, they were part of an ongoing discussion on how best to strengthen women’s reproductive rights across Europe.

“In addition, it was Amnesty who first approached Open Society, in a general call for expressions of interest for a grant that was not specific to abortion.

“Furthermore, the legal scope of the grant given to Amnesty International is determined by the language of the grant agreement, and not by any other document. The Open Society Foundations trusts that SIPO will rely only on this document to determine whether the terms of this grant comply with Irish law.”

Previously: Above The Law

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36 thoughts on “‘It Was Amnesty Who First Approached Open Society’

  1. ReproBertie

    Has anybody else received their chegue from George for promoting the pro-choice stuff? I could really do with it before Christmas.

  2. Hoop da do

    The grant in question was to fund AI’s My Body My Rights campaign, which seeks to mobilize support for a repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which effectively bans all forms of abortion in Ireland in violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.

    I would imagine that the above statement is all that SIPO needed to confirm the political intent of the funding.

    The money was to fund a campaign that was obviously political. The have said this repeatedly. What is the conspiracy being alleged?

    1. TheQ47

      But by that rationale, anything calling for some sort of societal change could be considered political. I guess it depends on how you define the word political, doesn’t it?

      1. Nigel

        Given their role in criticising and campaigning against laws and regimes that contravene human rights, everything they do is by this definition political, which is why this seems overbroad.

        1. edalicious


          Also the fact that they okayed it with SIPO when accepting the money and then only after they’d received it and distributed it did SIPO change their minds. Like, how are they supposed to claw back the money *now* to repay it?

      2. Listrade

        That’d be the crux as in how the definition of political activity isn’t defined and so is up to SIPO.

        I’d say elections and referendums are definitely political and so would come under the legislation if a group is actively engaged activity with those. But Amnesty argue they were campaigning before that on the wider issue of human rights and so it isn’t political. Is campaigning to bring about a referendum (which was always what was required) political? I’d say it is.

        If you want a law change, even if it is “human rights” it’s political. But I’d agree with Amnesty in that there does need to be a definition.

        But, the Amnesty argument is holding up one big glaring issue with the legislation and that’s religious groups. They can accept any donation and not declare it because they argue their work is religious and isn’t political, even though they may be lobbying to not have a referendum. Their work is hidden under “religion”. Amnesty is trying to hide it’s political work under “human rights”.

        I agree with the legislation and have had to work under it. I just wish all third parties had to work under it too. NGOs get a lot of leeway by SIPO on their work, if they want room at the table on political or policy work, then they should have to work to the same rules as everyone else.

        Amnesty should give back the money, but all NGOs who are involved in political work should be under the same rules.

        Until then, I sympathise with Amnesty’s stance. Why should they have to give the money back when funds are coming into religious groups and they don’t have to declare or stick to the donation limits even though they are also engaged in political work?

        1. newsjustin

          Which religious groups are you thinking of here Listrade? And who’s given them money to do politics?

          1. Listrade

            Religious groups don’t have to register as a third party with SIPO even if they directly lobby on policy issues or engage in overt political work. As long as they describe their work as religious.

            Iona registered in 2015 (i think) but they took a long time to do so and built up quite a good bit of funding before that (something like €500,000) and only did so after an official complaint was made. Of course, any donations made in the lead up to the marriage referendum in the previous calendar year wouldn’t have needed to be declared. Even if it was from abroad.

          2. Daisy Chainsaw

            Lolek ltd Trading as Iona “Institute” trades as “activities of a religious organisation”

  3. bisted

    …I just knew those Russians would be to blame…imagine hacking ‘Open’ Society correspondence and showing evidence of their true intent…Colm O’Gorman was bought quite cheaply…

    1. snowey

      It matters to me , bar personal donations I think it’s important our politics and voting isn’t influenced by outsiders.
      Esp people with a history of this like Soros.

      he is a truly evil man

      1. ReproBertie

        Would you include the Roman Catholic Church when talking about our politics being influenced by outsiders? Any funding they provide is exempt from SIPO scrutiny.

  4. Yellow Cheese Dog

    All that and tax avoidance too!

    “From October 2008 through the end of 2013, Quantum Ireland paid Irish taxes of $962 on $3,851 of net income after allocating $7.2 billion of operating income to investors as distributions on profit participation notes, according to its financial statements. Most, if not all, of the notes were held by Soros’s tax-exempt Open Society foundations. Last year, Soros shut down Quantum Ireland and moved the deferred fees to a new entity incorporated in the Cayman Islands.”

  5. nellyb

    “After all the shouting is over, both David Quinn and Colm O’Gorman agree. And the funny thing is — Sipo agree too. They want to police higher standards in public life, not where campaign contributions come from, and arbitrary limits to the amount that can be donated.
    There should be one rule, and one rule only. You should be able to raise as much as you can, within reasonable limits, and spend it effectively. But you must do it out in the open. It’s the secrecy, not the sources, that Sipo should be mandated to police.” by Fergus Finley in Irish Examiner

  6. newsjustin

    This saga is hilarious when you recall all the gossip and innuendo about “American dollars paying for all those fancy pro-life posters/buses/iPads….”

      1. newsjustin

        I can’t speak for them, but I think only Amnesty International are non-compliant with SIPO. Directly flouting a SIPO direction at the moment, as I understand it.

    1. nellyb

      These posters had amazingly strong white bias. Like a call to preserve particular phenological traits, more common above 50 deg latitude. That’s a polite way to put it now.

      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        When you see the white supremacists involved in Yank Defense, that’s not really a surprise. Antis have started going on about how there won’t be enough Irish people to work here in the future and we’ll have to import furriners and brown people to change our adult nappies and spoon feed us our mush in the home. Go bhfoire Dia orainn! Fatima changing the sheets instead of Fiona! There’s an insidious undercurrent to it all.

        Of course now, they’ll bring Token in for the front row of the rallies the way they mass produced home made looking banners after the slick production values and the dolla value of all of it was questioned.

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