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More than 160 meetings: NWCI has "access to every level of government", new figures show

The National Women’s Council (NWCI), which has been sharply criticised in the past week for excluding swathes of women with differing views, has met with Ministers and Department Officials at least one hundred and sixty times over the past two years, it has been revealed. 

Figures released to Independent TD Carol Nolan (included below) show that the NGO has “seemingly unparalleled access” to the corridors of power, across all Departments, with 38 meetings with the Department of Health alone. The Laois Offaly TD said the figures showed that NWCI was an “insider clique” who were “moulding agendas without being in any way genuinely representative of Irish women”.

Minister for Children and Equality, Roderic O’Gorman, also met with the NWCI at least 28 times, casting a different light on the organisation’s recent positioning of themselves as outsiders protesting the government.

The NWCI has long been held by many women to be both elitist and hostile to women with different views on a range of topics, including abortion. They have also been sharply criticised by feminists who object to their categorisation of a woman as ‘any person who identifies as a woman’, a description that feminists say undermines women’s safety in regard to domestic violence shelters, prisons and more.

The NWCI is in receipt of taxpayer funding of close to a million euros a year, though they have also taken funding from a wealthy American pressure group, the Centre for Reproductive Rights.

Carol Nolan TD said the information, released to her through a mechanism known as Parliamentary Questions, showed the NWCI were not independent of government. The Laois Offaly TD said they were unrepresentative and should be defunded.

“Very few people have ever taken the NWCI’s claim to be ‘independent’ of Government seriously. They are in fact, as we can now plainly see, nothing remotely like a ‘Non-Governmental Organisation.’ They are at the very heart of the establishment, pushing, shaking, moulding agendas without being in any way genuinely representative of Irish women.” she said.

“What is also deeply alarming is that successive Governments and Ministers have basically outsourced major policy formation to an unrepresentative, lavishly funded, insider clique,” she added.

“The NWCI may flatter themselves by promoting the view that they are ‘rebels’ and protestors. No one is falling for that nonsense anymore. They are a fringe organisation brought into the heart of Government and are being kept on life support purely by the bizarre willingness of Government departments to yield to their exorbitant funding requests. It’s high time the NWCI stood on it’s own feet. Let us see how long this ‘important’ organisation survives without a flood of taxpayers money to keep it afloat.”

Pro-life group, the Life Institute said that pro-life women had been excluded from the NWCI for years, “perhaps decades”, saying the figures found by Nolan were “astonishing” and showed that the NWCI “were very much insiders with the ear of government on every issue, even though they failed to represent a great many women and were hostile to women with differing views.”

“They have seemingly unparalleled access to the corridors of power to push an agenda and to claim they represent all Irish women when that is not the case,” said Jennifer Wheldon, spokeswoman for the Life Institute.

She echoed Deputy Nolan’s call for defunding of the NWCI, saying that it was “grossly unfair” that an organisation which was “such an insider grouping with dogmatic and fixed views on important issues” continued to receive “lavish funding” when they did not represent all women.

This piece was first published on Gript

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