2006 Donation Statements

Donation Statements furnished by political parties for 2006

Report by the Standards in Public Office Commission to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann pursuant to section 4(1) of the Electoral Act 1997

Foreword

I am pleased to furnish this report to the Ceann Comhairle in accordance with section 4(1) of the Electoral Act 1997 (the Act). The report relates to annual Donation Statements/Statutory Declarations, in respect of 2006, furnished to the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) by political parties pursuant to section 24 of the Act.

Justice Matthew P. Smith
Chairman

Part 1 - Introduction

This report relates to Donation Statements/Statutory Declarations, in respect of 2006, furnished to the Standards Commission by political parties pursuant to section 24(1)(a) of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended.

Section 4(1) of the Act requires the Standards Commission to consider every statement and notification furnished to it in relation to political donations and where it considers it appropriate to do so, to furnish a report in writing to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann (Ceann Comhairle) on any matter arising.

It is noteworthy that neither Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, nor the Progressive Democrats reported any disclosable donations for 2006, a year preceding a long-awaited general election year. This was the first year in which Fianna Fáil produced such a nil return; Fine Gael has produced a nil return since 2001; the Labour Party did so in 2004 and 2005 while the Progressive Democrats have produced a nil return since 2003. It is the view of the Standards Commission that, in the light of this pattern of disclosure, the legislation governing donations to political parties requires urgent review.

In the calendar year prior to the 2002 General Election, donations disclosed by the parties amounted to almost seven times the 2006 figure. While it is true that exchequer funding of political parties has increased hugely since 2001 - over €13.5 million was spent in 2006 - this exchequer funding cannot be used for election purposes.

It is not known, therefore, how the parties financed their election campaigns in 2007, nor are the parties obliged to disclose the source of this funding. It is clear to the Standards Commission that parties are soliciting donations below the disclosure threshold. Monitoring of expenditure on election campaigns is also limited to expenditure on resources or material used during the election period - which runs from the date of dissolution of Dáil Éireann to polling day.

The Standards Commission believes that there is a strong case to be made for a new approach to the general funding of political parties, for increased transparency in such funding and for greater scrutiny of political party expenditure. In 2003 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation (Rec (2003) 4) on common rules against corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. As part of this, the Council approved a set of common rules which it recommended that member states should adopt in their national legal systems. While many of the rules are already provided for in our law, those which need to be implemented include recommendations that member states should require political parties to keep proper books and accounts, that these accounts should specify all donations received by a political party and identification of donors in the case of donations over a certain value and that party accounts must be presented at least annually to an independent authority.

Part 2 - Disclosure of donations by the appropriate officers of political parties

A political party is defined in the Act as a party that is registered in the Register of Political Parties to contest a Dáil or European Parliament election. Section 71 of the Act provides that each political party must appoint an appropriate officer. Where no appropriate officer stands appointed at any given time, the leader of the party is deemed to be the appropriate officer.

Section 24(1)(b) of the Act provides that the appropriate officer of a political party must furnish a Donation Statement to the Standards Commission not later than 31 March every year. The Donation Statement must show, in relation to the preceding calendar year, whether or not, during that year, the party received any donations exceeding €5,078.95 in value. For each such donation, the actual value and nature of the donation must be stated together with the name, address and a description of the donor. In accordance with section 24(3) of the Act, the Donation Statement must be accompanied by a Statutory Declaration to the effect that the Donation Statement is correct in every material respect and that all reasonable action has been taken in order to be satisfied as to its accuracy.

In accordance with Section 22(2)(a) of the Act, a donation to a political party means any contribution given for political purposes by any person, whether or not a member of a political party. A person means an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons.

A donation can include:

(i) a donation of money;
(ii) a donation of property or goods;
(iii) the free use of property or goods;
(iv) a free supply of services;
(v) the difference between the commercial price and the (lower) price charged for property, goods or services;
(vi) a donation received by way of a contribution made to the net profit from a fund-raising event.

Section 22(2)(c) of the Act provides that a donation made to a political party, whether made directly or through an intermediary, is deemed to be a donation to the party if it is made to party headquarters or to any branch or other subsidiary organisation of the party, to any candidate of the party at a local election or direct election, to any member of the party who is a member of a local authority, or to any officer, member or agent of the party or of any branch or other subsidiary organisation thereof.

Section 22(2)(c) also provides that where a donation made to a TD, Senator or MEP is passed on to a political party and a written acknowledgement of the donation is received from the party, the donation will be deemed to have been made to the party.

Section 22(2)(d) of the Act provides that the values of donations received from the same person in the same year must be aggregated and, if the total value exceeds €5,078.95, the donations must be disclosed.

In accordance with section 24(1)(b) of the Act, the Standards Commission produced a Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration form (06/PP/DS) for use in respect of the 2006 calendar year. A copy of the form was sent to the appropriate officer of each of the thirteen registered political parties on 8 March 2007 for return by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2007.

A Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration form was received from 6 of the 13 registered political parties by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2006. It was necessary to issue reminders to the appropriate officers of the Labour Party, the South Kerry Independent Alliance, the Socialist Workers Party, the Workers Party and the Communist Party. The Donation Statements were subsequently received from the Labour Party on 16 April 2007, the South Kerry Independent Alliance on 16 April 2007, the Socialist Workers Party on 19 April 2007, the Workers Party on 27 April 2007 and the Communist Party on 13 June 2007 .

It is an offence for the appropriate officer of a political party to fail to return the party's Donation Statement by the statutory deadline. Although the appropriate officers of the Labour Party, the South Kerry Independent Alliance, the Socialist Workers Party, the Workers Party and the Communist Party failed to comply with the Act by submitting their Donation Statement after the statutory deadline, the Standards Commission decided not to refer these matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Part 3 - Prohibited Donations

Section 23(1) of the Act provides that a political party must not accept, either directly or indirectly, an anonymous donation valued in excess of €126.97. If such a donation is received, it is required to be notified and remitted (or its value remitted) to the Standards Commission not later than 14 days after its receipt.

Section 23A(1) provides that the maximum value of donations which a political party may accept from the same donor in the same year is €6,348.69. Where a donor makes more than one donation to the same party in the same year the values of the donations must be aggregated and the donations treated as a single donation.

Section 23A(2) provides that a political party must not accept a foreign donation. A foreign donation is a donation from:

(i) an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside the island of Ireland, or

(ii) a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which one or more of its principal activities is directed.

Section 23A(5) provides that where a donation which is prohibited, because it is either a foreign donation or because its value exceeds the prescribed limit, is received by a political party, the party must notify the Standards Commission within 14 days and remit the donation, or in the case of a monetary donation, that part which is over the limit, to the Standards Commission. As an alternative to notifying and remitting the donation to the Standards Commission, a political party may, within 14 days, return the donation, or in the case of a monetary donation, that part which is over the limit, to the donor and keep a written record of that return for the purpose of it being furnished to the Standards Commission, if required.

The Standards Commission was not notified of receipt of any anonymous or foreign donations or donations in excess of the maximum prescribed limit.

Part 4 - Loans to political parties

During 2006 the Standards Commission received a number of enquiries concerning loans to political parties. These enquiries had been prompted by revelations that certain political parties in the UK had received significant loans in the run-up to the 2005 general election. The Standards Commission considered it appropriate to write to political parties setting out the position under which loans provided to political parties, either by financial institutions or by individuals or bodies which are not financial institutions, might be regarded as donations under the Electoral Acts.

A donation is defined in the Electoral Acts as a contribution for political purposes and includes a contribution of money and the free or below cost provision of goods, property or services. Where a loan is provided to a political party by a financial institution and the normal rules attaching to such loans apply, the loan is not regarded as a donation to the party. However, where a loan is provided to a political party by a financial institution in circumstances where either the interest charged is less than the lowest rate available from the financial institution or the loan is not repaid in accordance with the terms and conditions under which the loan was issued or is only partially repaid, the benefit to the party may be regarded as a donation and may, therefore, be subject to the disclosure and maximum limits applying to the acceptance of donations.

Where an individual or body, who or which is not a financial institution, gives a loan to a political party, it must be evident that the loan offered is a bona fide loan. In that regard the following conditions would apply:

  • as with a loan from a financial institution, the terms and conditions applying to the loan and its repayment must be stated clearly in writing;
  • interest is chargeable on the loan at a rate (whether fixed or variable) which reflects the interest charged by financial institutions on loans of a similar amount and duration. Where the interest charged is less than the lowest rate available from a financial institution, the benefit accruing from the difference in rates is regarded as a donation to the party.
  • the Standards Commission may require sight of the terms and conditions, including the interest charge, applying to the loan and may require confirmation that the loan has been repaid in accordance with these terms and conditions;
  • if the loan is not repaid in accordance with the terms and conditions, or is only partly repaid, the benefit of such non-repayment may be regarded as a donation to the party and could be subject to the disclosure and maximum acceptance limits applying.

The Standards Commission also requested the appropriate officer of each political party to:

i) confirm that any loans provided to the party by a financial institution since the commencement date of the Electoral Acts (15 May 1997) had been subject to the terms and conditions which are normally imposed by the financial institution and that the provision of such loans did not constitute a donation to the party;

ii) provide details of any loans provided to the party since the commencement date of the Electoral Acts by individuals or bodies which were not financial institutions.

In relation to loans from financial institutions, all of the political parties confirmed either that they did not receive any such loans or that any such loans received by them were subject to the normal terms and conditions applied by the financial institution and did not constitute a political donation. All of the political parties stated that they did not receive a loan from an individual or body, who or which is not a financial institution

Part 5 - Political donations account

Section 23B(1) of the Act provides that if a political party receives a monetary donation in excess of €126.97 it must open and maintain an account in a financial institution in the State and must lodge that donation and any further monetary donations, of whatever value, to that account. This requirement commenced with effect from 1 January 2002.

In accordance with section 23B(3), a Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration furnished to the Standards Commission by a political party, which was required to open a political donations account, must be accompanied by a statement provided by the financial institution in which the account was opened. The statement from the financial institution must specify all transactions that have taken place in relation to the account during the year to which the Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration relates.

The Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration must also be accompanied by a Certificate of Monetary Donations on which the appropriate officer confirms that all monetary donations received during the year were lodged to the account and that all amounts debited from the account were used for political purposes. The Certificate is accompanied by a separate Statutory Declaration. The Standards Commission produced a Certificate of Monetary Donations / Statutory Declaration form (06/PP/CMD) for use in respect of the 2006 calendar year. The form was enclosed with the Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration form which issued to appropriate officers of political parties on 8 March 2007.

The Standards Commission was conscious of the fact that the political donations accounts of some of the smaller political parties might not have been active during 2006. Accordingly, a political party whose political donations account was not active during 2006 was required only to state this on the Certificate of Monetary Donations/Statutory Declaration form and was not required to complete the Statutory Declaration or to forward a copy of a bank statement for 2006.

A Certificate of Monetary Donations/Statutory Declaration form was received from 12 of the 13 political parties. A form was not received from The Workers Party. On the basis that a Certificate of Monetary Donations form has never been received from this party (either from its Head Office or from an accounting unit - see Part 6 below), the Standards Commission assumes that The Workers Party has not received a monetary donation exceeding €126.97 in value since the commencement, on 1 January 2002, of these provisions of the legislation.

Part 6 - Accounting Units

Section 23B(2) of the Act requires the appropriate officer of each political party to notify the Standards Commission of the name and address of each of its "accounting units" and the "responsible person" of each accounting unit. An accounting unit means a branch or other subsidiary organisation of the party, which, in any particular year, receives a donation the value of which exceeds €126.97. The "responsible person" is the treasurer or any other person responsible for dealing with donations to the unit.

The Standards Commission writes to the appropriate officers of each political party annually requesting details of the party's accounting units. Table 6 gives details of the number of accounting units which were notified to the Standards Commission for 2006.

An accounting unit, on receipt of a monetary donation in excess of €126.97, must open and maintain a political donations account in a financial institution in the State and must lodge the donation and any further monetary donations received, of whatever value, to the account. The responsible person of the accounting unit must, by 31 March each year, furnish to the Standards Commission a statement from the financial institution in which the account is held together with a Certificate of Monetary Donations stating that all monetary donations received during the preceding year were lodged to the account and that all amounts debited from the account were used for political purposes. The Certificate of Monetary Donations is accompanied by a Statutory Declaration. It is an offence for the responsible person of an accounting unit to fail to comply with this requirement.

On 9 February 2007 the Standards Commission wrote to the responsible person of each of the 166 accounting units, notified to it, enclosing a Certificate of Monetary Donations/Statutory Declaration form. A separate form - Form 2 - was also enclosed. An accounting unit whose political donations account was not active during 2006 was required only to complete Form 2 and was not required to complete the Statutory Declaration or to forward a copy of a bank statement for 2006.

To date, 126 of these accounting units have furnished a return to the Standards Commission. The Standards Commission is pursuing those accounting units which have not replied.

The Standards Commission has continued to experience difficulties in supervising this part of the legislation. It is aware that some of these difficulties can contribute to the failure by accounting units to furnish the required documentation by the statutory deadline. Some of the difficulties encountered by the Standards Commission were set out in a report to the Ceann Comhairle in December 2003 on compliance by accounting units with the requirements of the legislation during 2002. The Standards Commission will also be referring to this matter in its annual report for 2006.

Part 7 - Laying of material before the Houses of the Oireachtas

As provided for in section 24(7)(a) of the Act, the Standards Commission has today laid the Donation Statements/Statutory Declarations furnished by political parties before each House of the Oireachtas.

Part 8 - Public inspection of statutory documentation

In accordance with Section 73 of the Act, the Standards Commission must retain at its offices, for a period of three years, every Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration furnished to it and make these documents available to the public for inspection and copying.

The Donation Statements/Statutory Declarations furnished to the Standards Commission are available for inspection and copying at the offices of the Standards Commission at 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. The information contained in the documents is also available, in summary form, on the website of the Standards Commission.

Details of the donations disclosed are provided in Tables 1 to 5 below.

Tables detailing donations disclosed by political parties for 2006

Table 1 - Disclosure of donations received by political parties in 2006

Political PartyAppropriate OfficerTotal value of
donations disclosed
Christian Democrats (The National Party)Mr. Daniel J.Desmond Nil
Christian Solidarity PartyMr. Michael Redmond Nil
Communist Party of IrelandMr. Eugene McCartan Nil
Fianna FáilMr. Seán Dorgan Nil
Fine GaelMr. Tom Curran Nil
Green PartyMr. Martin C. Nolan 30,600
Labour PartyMr. Mike Allen 11,100
Progressive DemocratsMr. John Higgins Nil
Sinn FéinMr. Desmond Mackin 87,233.80
Socialist PartyMr. Michael Murphy 11,819.55
Socialist Workers PartyMs. Bríd Smith Nil
South Kerry Independent
Alliance
Mr. Donie Doody Nil
The Workers PartyMr. John Lowry Nil
Total  140,753.35

Table 2 - List of donations disclosed by Sinn Féin

Value of Donation
Type of Donation Name of Donor Description of Donor Address of Donor
5,500 Standing Order Caoimhghín Ó'Caoláin T.D.Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Standing Order Sean Crowe T.D.Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Cheque Martin Ferris TDLeinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Standing Order Arthur Morgan T.D.Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Bank Transfer Mary Lou Mc Donald M.E.P.44 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
5,745.50 Cheque Sue Ramsay IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,745.50 Cheque Philip McGuigan IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Conor Murphy IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Fra McCann IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Raymond McCartney IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Francie Brolly IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Caitriona Ruane IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Barry McElduff IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Tom O'Reilly IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
5,780.35 Cheque Willie Clarke IndividualAdministrative Office, Room 266, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX

Table 3 - List of donations disclosed by the Green Party

Value of Donation
Type of DonationName of DonorDescription of DonorAddress of Donor
5,100 Standing Order Dan Boyle T.D.Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
5,100 Standing Order Ciarán Cuffe T.DDáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
5,100 Cheque Paul Gogarty T.DDáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
5,100 Standing Order/Cheque John Gormley T.DDáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
5,100 Standing Order Eamon Ryan T.DDáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
5,100 Standing Order Trevor Sargent T.DDáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2

Table 4 - List of donations disclosed by the Labour Party

Value of Donation
Type of DonationName of DonorDescription of DonorAddress of Donor
6,000 Cheque Thomas Byrne Company Solicitors78 Walkinstown Road, Walkinstown, Dublin 12.
5,100 Cheque Con Pendred CompanyDerrynan House,
77 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1.

Table 5 - List of donations disclosed by the Socialist Party

Value of Donation
Type of DonationName of DonorDescription of DonorAddress of Donor
5,819.55 11 Monthly Direct Debits of €529.05 Joe Higgins, T.D. Individual155 Briarwood Close
Mulhuddart
Dublin 15
6,000 Bank Draft Colm Halpin Individual10 St. Mary's Court East Wall Dublin 3

Table 6 - Returns furnished by Accounting Units for 2006

 Number of Accounting Units notified by the party's appropriate officerNumber of Accounting Units who furnished a return by 31 March 2007Number of Accounting Units who have yet to furnish a return
Fianna Fáil 65 26 21
Fine Gael 25 7 10
Labour 27 16 2
Sinn Féin 15 11 2
Progressive Democrats 27 13 5
Green Party 7 6 0
Total 166 79 40

*Between 31 March and the publication date of the report a further 47 accounting units furnished a return to the Standards Commission