Government axes Accord funding ahead of referendum

Bishop questions whether move is part of ‘wider agenda’

Michael Kelly and Cathal Barry

With just over a week to the marriage referendum, the Government has withdrawn all funding for pre-marriage courses from the Catholic agency Accord The Irish Catholic can reveal.

In a letter seen by this newspaper from Tusla, the child and family agency, Accord is informed that total annual funding of €378,000 has been withdrawn completely.

It will give weight to fears that have been raised by Church leaders that Catholic agencies who do not support the Government’s agenda on the redefinition of marriage will be starved of funding.

The revelation is also set to increase fears in the ‘yes’ camp ahead of the referendum since voters have already been raising the issue of Accord funding with politicians.

Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney – a prominent ‘yes’ campaigner – told The Irish Catholic “over the course of the last two weeks, in discussion with people on the marriage referendum, I’ve encountered concerns about the ongoing State funding of agencies such as Accord should there be a ‘yes’ victory”.


Bizarrely, the Tusla letter informs Accord that the decision to cut funding is retrospective and took effect on January 1, despite the fact that the letter is dated May 7.

Tusla cites a delay in Minister James Reilly approving the budget for the fact that the cut is retrospective.

The Irish Catholic understands that Accord had no idea the annual grant would be slashed and therefore has been operating since January 1 on the basis that funding would continue. Accord is now in a precarious financial situation since it has incurred considerable expense in the first five months of the year based on the expectation of continued funding from Tusla.

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran told The Irish Catholic “it seems to me that if the State does have a commitment to marriage, as the Constitution requires it to do, it is a rather strange move to be withdrawing funding from pre-marriage preparation courses”. Boyle Family Life Centre in Co. Roscommon – in Dr Doran’s diocese – will be one of the Accord centres affected.

“It remains to be seen whether this is part of a wider policy of the Government,” Bishop Doran said.


Dr Doran added: “we did express concern in a pastoral statement in March that this could happen and certainly some of the comments coming from the Taoiseach would indicate that he would expect Catholic schools to change what they teach in relation to marriage and the family

“I also think back to two years ago when the then Minister for Health [James Reilly] threatened to remove funding from Catholic hospitals if they didn’t conform to the law on abortion.

“It is now the same minister who is responsible for Tusla,” Bishop Doran said.