Fianna Fáil has published a political donations bill which implements key recommendations of the Moriarty Tribunal, cuts donation limits and introduces an effective ban on corporate donations. The Bill gives the Dáil the opportunity to ensure that the changes are in force before the Summer recess rather than wait until the end of the year as is likely under the government’s current plans. In addition the party announced its intention to push for a constitutional amendment this year to allow a more comprehensive ban on corporate donations.
The most significant part of the bill introduces restriction on corporate donations to parties and politicians which amount to an effective ban. Specifically;
all corporate donations over €100 would have to be declared within 14 days, authorised by a general meeting and registered with the Standards in Public Offices Commission;
all companies, directors and significant shareholders would have to declare and current or potential public contracts at the time of making any donation.
This approach has been taken because of legal advice that a complete ban would most likely be unconstitutional. Fianna Fáil intends to address this through publishing a constitutional amendment which could be put to the people on the same day as the Presidential election later this year.
Other changes in the Bill include:
Reducing allowable individual donations to political parties from €6348 to €2500, with the level at which these must be publicly declared to fall from €5078 to €1000.
Requiring the publication of donation statements within 25 days of polling (currently 58 days for unsuccessful candidates and 31st March of the following year for successful candidates).
Provides for SIPO to audit the accounts of political parties each year, with the income and expenditure account, balance sheet and donations statement to be published.
Extending SIPO supervision to further independent expenditures in referenda.
Implementing recommendations of Mr Justice Moriarty relating to extending provisions to independent or non-party candidates.
Outlining the background to the Bill Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin said, “In our election manifesto we said that we would introduce a bill on political donations within a month of the reconvening of the Dáil and that we would seek all-party support for it. Since then the report of the Moriarty Tribunal has reinforced the need for the Dáil to be seen to act swiftly.”
“We have taken extensive legal advice in drafting this bill, which will effectively end corporate donations and dramatically increase the levels of transparency in political funding and expenditure. To go further would, we are advised, require a constitutional referendum, which we are committed to proposing be held on the same day as the Presidential election later this year.”
Mr. Martin concluded: “Rather than waiting for months and potentially not changing the situation until early next year at the latest, we believe that the government should support this bill and allow it to go forward to committee where amendments can be made.”