The Abortion Rights Campaign has confirmed it has returned a grant it received from a US-based foundation led by the billionaire George Soros, following communications from the Republic's Standards In Public Office Commission, also known as SIPO.

The confirmation comes after The Irish Catholic newspaper reported that the campaign gave back the $25,000 (€23,460) following warnings from the political ethics watchdog that the donation would be reported to the gardaí if the ARC persisted in rejecting its requests.

This week's Irish Catholic report, based on SIPO documents released on foot of a Freedom of Information request, says the ARC received the €25,000 from the US-based Open Society Foundation (OSF) last January, to help it garner support for a repeal of the Constitution's restrictions on abortion.

While SIPO does not comment on individual cases, a spokesperson told RTÉ News that Irish law prohibits donations of over €100 for domestic political purposes from a number of sources including any organisation which fails to keep an office on this island from which to direct a principal activity.

The report recalls that indications that the controversial application was in train came in documents leaked to the Irish Independent last August, which claimed that the Soros-funded OSF intended to challenge the Republic's constitutional restrictions on terminations, by funding the Abortion Rights Campaign, Amnesty International Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association, to campaign together to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The Irish Catholic says that when SIPO asked the ARC for copies of its correspondence with the foundation, the Campaign described the watchdog's approach as "draconian" and only submitted the documentation after a senior SIPO official warned that otherwise, the Gardaí would be notified.

The paper says SIPO confirmed to the ARC that it was in breach of the law, adding that the gardaí would have to be told if the donation was not returned.

However, it was given back to the foundation last November.

Amnesty International Ireland and the Irish Family Planning Association were also requested by SIPO to submit their correspondence with the Open Society Foundation, Soros-led organisation. 

Responding today (Monday 3 April) to a request lodged by RTÉ News last Saturday, IFPA CEO Niall Behan, said the watchdog had confirmed some time ago that the donation did not have to be registered with it as it was stated in the contract with the donor that the money would be used for "religious, charitable, scientific, literary  or educational purposes".

On Saturday, Amnesty's spokesman Colm O'Gorman told RTÉ News it was a bit extreme to suggest that the legislation establishing the political ethics watchdog should be used to restrict sources of funding for  civil society advocacy.