Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Second Letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s fantasy world and the world of Atlantic Philanthropies

Bruce Arnold,

17 May 2023

An Taoiseach
Mr Enda Kenny TD
Government Buildings
Upper Merrion Street
Dublin 2

A Second “Open Letter” to An Taoiseach about the Marriage Referendum

Dear Enda,

I have serious misgivings about the legality and wisdom of the facts related in the second part of this letter headed “Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s fantasy world and the world of Atlantic Philanthropies.” The first part of the letter deals with the prevalence of misrepresentation by the Yes-Side in delivering their message. The two are offered as a serious indictment of the way in which the Referendum arguments have been so firmly backed by yourself, your Government and your party.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn wrote a lyrical piece in the Irish Times on May 14 about her experiences with people during her time as Minister for Justice. She picked on the issue of homosexuality and wrote lyrically about women ‘with their tears unwiped’. These women, apparently, were the mothers of Gay sons ‘terrified that their children might fall foul of a law that characterised their sexuality as against the interests of the State’.

She recalled the Government making a decision “that may not have been popular but was certainly right”. This apparently was a decision to decriminalise homosexuality. This was is what she was writing about. She even quoted Churchill’s famous wartime speech about her decision not being the end, nor the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.

She wrote also of Gay people who stopped her in the streets “to express satisfaction that they were free of the overshadowing legal threat”. They talked, she wrote, of “where the arc of freedom meets the arc of equality”.

Unfortunately, none of this happened. It was entirely an invention in her mind and had nothing to do with the decriminalising of homosexuality, nor with her speeches at the time. Homosexuality was never a criminal offence in Ireland. Any fears that there were among mothers, any “unwiped tears” in their eyes, were purely fictional and stemmed from irrational imagination and invention, including her own.

What she did do, under pressure from David Norris – who had done the spade-work on this reform in Brussels with help from Mary Robinson – was to decriminalise “homosexual acts”, which were an offence until she acted on reluctant government approval after intervention from Europe. The absurdity of this particular sexual act (the practice of buggery or sodomy, shared by heterosexuals) being a crime was remedied with no tears shed.

Tears were shed when, in the same piece of legislation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn re-criminalized prostitution and doubled the penalties. I wrote at the time (Irish Independent, 19 June 2023) “It is hard to conceive of a greater absurdity than a piece of legislation which manages to be totally reformist in its attitude to homosexuals, in a simple straightforward and enlightened way, while at the same time directing against prostitutes all the ancient and hypocritical savagery which has traditionally been society’s approach towards the oldest profession.” The fine for them was doubled and of course it was paid by women while their clients were not penalised. Donall Ó Móráin, a friend at the time, wrote to me: “The oldest profession will overcome Queen Canute’s efforts to impose even more State morality on this downtrodden and generally harmless segment”.

In her fantasy narrative, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has transferred the prostitutes, who do not shed tears lightly, into the mothers of the homosexuals whom she wrongly sees crying over the removal of a crime that was never there. So much for truth.

This same narrative has been a consistent thread in the bleating story about how we are rescuing homosexuals from society’s prejudice. Bits of the story have come out during the Referendum campaign, from Mary McAleese and her son, from Noel Whelan, from Ivana Bacic. They have all supported the myth to which Maire Gegeghan-Quinn subscribes at such length. The overall truth was, that she was forced by an international court to complete the modest liberation of Gays from the final problem they faced – that of committing private crimes – while at the same time combining it with what I called at the time “her draconian measures against an even more marginalised section in our community, those engaged in prostitution”.

The Yes side have been engaging in this entirely false picture of oppressed same-sex couples, by repeating the idea that homosexuality itself was once “criminal”. An exception to this is Peter Carey, who speaks the truth about this event of 1993.

I rebut this deceptive and dishonest story-telling because of its relevance to another rather different side of the story.

At the heart of this Referendum story, amply described in documents available on the website of Atlantic Philanthropies, is a massive and sustained intrusion in Irish political and social life with almost unlimited funds, much of it driving an LGBT agenda.

Their beneficiaries and agents in Ireland, such as GLEN, Marriage Equality, ICCL, IHREC, National Lesbian & Gay Federation, and many others, have received €735 million to fund Irish projects over 13 years, of which €25 million has been devoted to agencies directly promoting political and social change in the area of LBGT interests. If you wonder why so many agencies publically support the Yes campaign, check out the Atlantic database of grant aid to Ireland. This is political, moral and financial “prostitution” on a gigantic and unprecedented scale.

Like the European money that in the old days persuaded Ireland to do virtually anything to get more of it, the politicians have pledged themselves to Yes Side voting without understanding what they are supporting and how it is funded.

Atlantic Philanthropies have bought this Referendum and what they have done renders all previous corruptions of our Referendum processes mere trifles on the way to this one.

This level of investment has given Atlantic a major influence on Government in areas of social policy, especially in LBGT issues. Over a period covering two opposed administrations, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael-Labour, what history consistently failed to do, the united parties for a questionable progress in our country, untouched by the restraining hand of democracy, was carried out. Friday will tell us whether it has been successful.

The CEO who achieved this, Christopher Oechsli, said in an interview in Alliance magazine on 1 April 2013: “Atlantic has a huge footprint in Ireland and it’s not been easy for us or for our grantees to fully appreciate what that will mean. Our board recently met with the Taoiseach (yourself, Enda) and government ministers about what we are seeking to do in our final years and the key questions that arose were about impact and sustainability.”

The influence of Atlantic funding is detailed in “Catalysing LGBT Equality and Visibility in Ireland: A review of LGBT cluster grants, 2004-2013”, available on the Atlantic Philanthropies website. “ The key legislative goals for the LGBT grantees were to pass same-sex partnership legislation, to move toward a referendum on same-sex civil marriage and toward laws protecting the rights of children of LGBT families, and to make progress toward gender recognition legislation. These goals were achieved through sophisticated lobbying, communications and mobilisation, effective use of transformative personal narratives, and direct contact between LGBT constituents and their elected representatives.”

“GLEN and Marriage Equality followed the Civil Partnership Act by continued campaigning for civil marriage. Marriage Equality focused on visibility campaigns, where videos on the web and posters on the street dramatically raised the visibility of LGB people and their families. … Marriage Equality trained family members and other allies to become spokespeople for the LGBT community. They organised these spokespeople on a massive scale using personal stories to educate the public, members of the legal community, and politicians that civil partnership was not equivalent to civil marriage.”

The rights of partners under the Civil Partnership Act do not equate to the rights of marriage in language, law, or perception. Marriage Equality identified more than 160 statutory differences between civil partnership and civil marriage, including the rights of the children of LGBT families. GLEN and Marriage Equality followed the Civil Partnership Act by continued campaigning for civil marriage. Marriage Equality focused on visibility campaigns, where videos on the web and posters on the street dramatically raised the visibility of LGB people and their families. Their powerful 2009 video, ‘Sinead’s Hand’ 6, has been seen by at least half a million viewers.

Contrary to the Yes campaign claim that the Marriage referendum has nothing to do with children, the Atlantic Report is very clear that ensuring “LGBT parenting rights and the rights of children in LGBT families” is very much part of their legislative agenda.

Atlantic Philanthropies also describe their agenda in the next three to five years:
• Ensure implementation of LGBT policy and guidance by mainstream agencies and professional bodies
• Secure the Constitutional amendment and civil marriage
• Ensure LGBT parenting rights and the rights of children in LGBT families
• Secure community-endorsed, best-practice gender recognition legislation
• Improve transgender treatment guidelines and training
• Improve health services for LGBT people.”

Atlantic Philanthropies also took pride in the Constitutional Convention passing a recommendation stipulating that the state should recognize the rights of parents and children in LGBT families, such as allowing for second parent adoption and guardianship.

“When TENI was founded, there was little or no positive public recognition of gender diversity. Ireland is the only country in the European Union that has no legislation to account for the recognition of a transgender person’s preferred identity. TENI raised awareness among politicians, developed relationships with politicians and policy-makers, developed effective and creative advocacy tools, and has been proactive in defining best practice, human-rights based gender recognition legislation.”

“GLEN worked with the Department of Education and Skills to develop and standardise national responses to address homophobic bullying and ensure the support of LGBT young people in schools. They participated in the Minister for Education and Skills’ Anti-Bullying Working Group, and helped produce its Action Plan, which calls for legislation and strong action to be taken by second-level school principals to make sure that bullying does not take place in schools. The high level of buy-in from ‘insider’ partners makes these actions more likely to be implemented.”

“From 2004 to 2013, The Atlantic Philanthropies provided grant funding to support equality and visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Ireland. Atlantic focused its funding on a cluster of four organisations with the objective of improving LGBT people’s access to rights and services. … as a result of Atlantic’s investment, enduring LGBT sector organisations are staffed with highly-respected and skilled strategists, lobbyists, campaigners, marketing experts, programme managers, and community organisers. Organisations have matured, others have taken root, and strong, creative partnerships have blossomed. … From 2004-2013, The Atlantic Philanthropies funded four organisations in Ireland to improve human rights, visibility, and access to services for lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, providing a total of $11.5m over that period.”

A Consultant’s Report (PA Consulting) on the activities of GLEN in 2010 confirmed the highly political nature of the work undertaken by GLEN. “The overarching and dominant focus of GLEN's work has been to secure legislative and policy change. This is not to understate its other. Rather it underlines the central ethos of GLEN to ensure that the policy and legislative infrastructure supports equality for LGB people and drives social change. … A key finding from this evaluation is that GLEN had a critical role in shaping the legislation and in driving its progress.”

The next steps envisaged, and outlined in another 2010 Report, Field Dispatches: Winning Civil Partnerships in Ireland Atlantic interviewed a GLEN spokesperson on the next steps in their plan.
“GLEN has always sought civil marriage and we have welcomed civil partnership, which is closely based on marriage, as a radical step toward that goal. The critical challenge to achieving marriage is the consensus that now exists across all political parties that opening out civil marriage to same-sex couples will require a referendum to change the Irish Constitution. … The legal case taken by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Ireland did not succeed in the High Court, following a detailed judgement in 2006. An appeal has been lodged with the Supreme Court with the hearing hopefully to be held by the end of the year, although no specific date has been set as yet.”

“A critical immediate goal of GLEN is for legal recognition of same-sex families. Important policy opportunities for advancing such recognition now exist. At an institutional level, this includes the work of the Law Reform Commission on the legal aspects of family relationships. Considerable political support was also expressed in the debates on civil partnership by politicians across political parties for further progress to address gaps in legal recognition of children being parented by same-sex couples.”

A further report on the Atlantic website reflects on the success of GLEN in engineering social change. Report, 27 November 2012: Civil Partnership and Ireland: How a Minority Achieved a Majority: “In 2010, Ireland enacted some of the most far-reaching legal protections for gay and lesbian couples in the world. The case study describes the story of how this historic legislation gained passage in a largely Catholic country that just 16 years earlier had decriminalised homosexual conduct between men. It looks at the efforts of Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) which, along with many supporters and collaborators, worked methodically to achieve this change. The study outlines the critical elements of the advocacy strategy and how GLEN adapted its approach in response to changing social and political opportunities and setbacks.”

The foregoing is just a small selection of key passages in the extensive documentation publicly available on the internet. The evidence is overwhelming. Huge foreign investment has driven a highly focussed political agenda in this country for many years. The question now is whether the people of Ireland will complete the sale.