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Bishop seeks further answers over SVP LGBT donation

By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 September, 2014

Bishop Martin Drennan. Pic courtesy: connachttribune.ie

Bishop Martin Drennan. Pic courtesy: connachttribune.ie

Bishop Martin Drennan has said he is seeking further answers from the Society of St Vincent de Paul over its decision to donate funds to a Galway LGBT group for a resource centre in the city.

In a statement during the week, the bishop said he had received correspondence from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) regarding its allocation of €45,000 to part fund the resource centre for the AMACH! LGBT organisation.

Last week, Bishop Drennan queried the grounds for the allocation with the SVP office in Galway and the charity’s national head office in Dublin.

In an interview with Galway Bay FM, the bishop said his objections were moral.

“Gay culture is a different culture. We respect their view. But in our eyes, it’s morally wrong behaviour and we cannot put funds at the service of behaviour we don’t believe is morally correct… We cannot be seen to support a culture that promotes that kind of activity,” he said.

The SVP donation was made with the support of the organisation’s National Management Council based on its ethos “to be non-judgmental when its assistance is sought.”

A spokesman for the SVP said none of the money comes from public donations or church gate collections or their day to day operations.

“The money that has been granted comes from a specific fund, the Maureen O’Connell Fund and so it has no direct connection to any of the other money spent by the SVP,” Jim Walsh explained.

The Maureen O’Connell Fund is a special fund which disburses grants from the proceeds of the sale of a pub owned by Maureen O’Connell who bequeathed it to the SVP in Galway, netting them €7.8m.

Jim Walsh of the SVP rejected suggestions that the money would be better spent on funding those more obviously in poverty such as those trapped in direct provision or the elderly. “The SVP spent €42 million in 2012 on direct assistance to families,” he said.

Nuala Ward, Vice Chair of LGBT group Amach! invited Bishop Drennan to meet members of the group and see first-hand the work they are doing on suicide prevention and helping gays deal with prejudice and isolation.

However, catholic group Faith in our Families expressed opposition to the donation and questioned whether the late Maureen O’Connell would approve of the way the funds are being used by the SVP.

Meanwhile, a local Galway councillor, Mike Cubbard, called on Bishop Drennan to consider his position over the matter.

The Bishop said in his statement on Tuesday that he would continue to support the SVP in their work to alleviate poverty in Galway and throughout Ireland.

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