Amach LGBT “People who donate to SVP feel their donations are going to help materially needy people. You (LGBT) cannot ever be classed in that category.”

As heard on liveline

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Yesterday evening, the first LGBT centre in the West of Ireland was opened by AMACH!, a volunteer run organisation which represents and advocates on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. The centre is based in Galway city and will serve as a meeting point for support groups.

However, as Joe Duffy discovered on Liveline, some people are not happy about the way in which some of the funds which went into the opening of the centre were sourced. Amongst those was Liam O’Mahony, who made the following point.

“The traditional recipients of St Vincent DePaul money would be the old people who are suffering lack of fuel. People with young children, and no money for Christmas. That’s the tradition. Now, we discover the money is being given to a group which is an advocacy group.”

In 2014, it was announced that €45,000 would be donated towards the opening of the AMACH! centre from the St Vincent DePaul organisation. And several Liveline listeners, while supporting St Vincent DePaul in its efforts to combat poverty, feel such a donation is a misuse of their funds.

Why, went the argument, is an organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty donating such a quantity of money to an organisation not specifically included in that category of people?

“What you have is a group that would have been campaigning for rights for the LGBT community that they wouldn’t have had in the past”, said Peter. “Now, we have the equality referendum passed, they are up there with, as far as I’m concerned, the local tennis club, the local GAA club. They are actually a group that have no discrimination against them, now. So why would the St Vincent DePaul be giving them money, as against any other group, whether it’s a local youth club, or something like that?”

But, as Joe said, is that a fair comparison? “We didn’t have to have a referendum in the country to let tennis players marry each other.”

As it happens, yesterday, the day the AMACH! centre opened, was the national collection day for the St Vincent DePaul in churches nationwide. And during the programme, it was recalled how, in 2014, the then Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan, had expressed his “moral difficulty” with the decision. The Bishop claimed that homosexuality was “morally wrong behaviour”, and to direct money towards an LGBT group from St Vincent DePaul coffers was inappropriate.

Later in the show, Nuala Ward, a founding member of AMACH!, clarified the source of the funding. The €45,000 actually came from a bequest of a Galway woman called Maureen O’Connell. Maureen was a publican in Galway and, in her will, set up a fund “to be distributed to marginalised groups in the Galway area”, but administered by St Vincent DePaul.

She also clarified that the work of the organisation was not just advocacy, but practical, educational and peer support for the LGBT community in a cost-effective way.

But another caller to the show, Liam Ó Droma, remained unhappy.

“That’s all very fine, but the people who donate to SVP delayed and feel that their donations are going to help materially needy people. And you cannot ever be classed in that category….. In all fairness, you should work to give the money back.”

Nuala, unsurprisingly, said returning the money was not going to happen any time soon.

To listen to the full show, click here.

© The Listener 2016

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