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Why was a left-wing NGO given a free Government office for 18 years?

In September Gript posed the question as to why a private company called Common Purpose – albeit one that describes itself as a charitable organisation and enjoys subsequent tax treatment  – has been allowed the free use of office space owned by the state through the Office of Public Works.

A series of Parliamentary Questions from Rural Independent TD for Laois/Offaly Carol Nolan ascertained that, between 2015 and 2021, Common Purpose has been paid €309,529 by a range of Government departments for what are generally termed “leadership” programmes.

The Department of Education alone spent over €100,000 on such programmes provided by Common Purpose. As our previous piece shows, Common Purpose is not just some neutral training agency that hosts Banana Races and Pass the Fruit ice breakers so that Fiona from HR and Mick from Despatch don’t allow festering differences over the Junior B camogie final in 2007 to impinge on company efficiency.

Far from it. Common Purpose is a leftist-oriented organisation whose programmes promote a definite ideological agenda. Not only that, but, unlike your average training agency, Common Purpose maintains a group of “Alumni” which to all intents and purposes constitute a membership organisation of whatever level of formality.

Common Purpose alumni are found at the highest levels of all manner of public bodies across the globe including in Ireland. Among this group are the current Labour Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland, as well as two members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

So sensitive is the organisation about scrutiny that in 2009 the British Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that Common Purpose (UK) had most likely breached the Data Protection Act when it circulated a list of “vexatious” individuals to government departments where they believed, with some reason, that they enjoyed a degree of influence.

The vexatious people in question had had the temerity to submit Freedom of Information requests to state department regarding spending on Common Purpose training programmes (The Daily Telegraph, November 17, 2012.).

At least those FOIs were answered. My own, sent to the FOI unit of the Office of Public Works on September 20 regarding the use, for free, by Common Purpose of office space at 31-35 Bow Street, Dublin 7 elicited the response that the relevant files were being held off site and so the questions could not be answered.

Dáil questions from Carol Nolan TD requesting similar information received a similar response. She has, however, since received a letter from Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD which includes the following:

The relevant historic files have now been reviewed by the Commissioners of Public Works (OPW). From the limited information available it appears that a small amount of unused office space was allocated to the organisation in question in 2003. The arrangement is now being reviewed by the OPW.

This does not answer the key questions that were asked, namely:

“the reasons such an arrangement was permitted,

the reason the organisation was accommodated in such a way.”

Given that rented office space in Dublin 7 would probably average around €1,000 a month even for a pretty “small amount” as described in Minister O’Donovan’s letter, Common Purpose may have saved itself somewhere in the region of €200,000 by getting a free gaff from which to send off invoices to the taxpayer – via various different government departments – for even more of our cash.

Nice work if you can get it. Some of us might, perhaps be curious as to why such an organisation with obviously close connections to the liberal elite in this state are given such preference. Especially at a time when genuine community initiatives across a whole range of cultural and other valuable activities are struggling to survive.

Indeed, how many of those leaders trained by Common Purpose are the very ones in state departments making the decisions that are responsible for the atrophy of many sectors of Irish life currently under from what some would regard as an ideological assault?


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