Accord – a state supported group of Catholic marriage counsellors must now also cater to same-sex couples if they want to keep their funding. Previously, the service had a formal policy against accepting said couples due to religious beliefs. The government has threatened that unless Accord introduced a new service level agreement, meaning they stopped discrimination against people based on sexual orientation, all funding would be withdrawn. This could eventually progress to the group being shut down altogether.
Accord, who run marriage preparation services alongside the previously mentioned marriage and relationship counsellors, also advertise on their site that they offer “a range of Relationships and Sexuality Education Programmes to a variety of schools in various locations”. These school programmes make no mention of homosexual relationships or any form of contraception.
They are also in receipt of the largest amount of funding given to a counselling service by the state. It was reported that Tusla, the Child And Family Agency, had provided around €408,000 for Accord’s marriage counselling service in Dublin alone, alongside €1,184,500 for other services across the country.
Speaking of the move, a Tusla spokeswoman stated, “Accord Catholic Marriage Care Service has assured Tusla they will provide counselling services regardless of sexual orientation and comply with the agreement. Tusla will monitor service providers including Accord Dublin Catholic Marriage Care Service to ensure they comply with the terms of their service level agreement. If any service repudiates the terms of its contractual obligation with Tusla, we will have to take action to ensure compliance, including the possibility of withdrawing funding and commencing a decommissioning of that service.”
The statement went on to say that public funded bodies must offer support and services which are “free from discrimination and accessible to everyone”. The Irish Catholic Bishops, who run Accord’s services, have as yet declined to make a comment.
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