2008 Donation Statments

Donation Statements furnished by Political Parties for 2008

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 2008, furnished to the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) by political parties pursuant to section 24 of the Act.


Justice M.P. Smith
Chairman

Part 1 - Introduction

Not later than 31 March each year, political parties are required by section 24(1)(b) of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended to furnish a Donation Statement covering the previous calendar year to the Standards Commission.

During 2008 there were 14 political parties which were registered to contest Dáil or European elections. (There are now 15 registered political parties). Each of these parties was required to furnish a Donation Statement in respect of 2008 to the Standards Commission. Section 4(1) of the Act requires the Standards Commission to consider every Donation Statement furnished to it 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.  Table 1 summarises the donations disclosed by political parties for 2008.


Table 1 Summary of donations disclosed by Political Parties for 2008
Political Party  Appropriate OfficerTotal value of donations 
Fianna FáilMr Seán Dorgan€11,800
Fine GaelMr Tom CurranNil
The Labour PartyMs Ita McAuliffeNil
The Green PartyMr Martin Nolan €46,552
Sinn FéinDes Mackin €30,000
Progressive DemocratsSenator Ciarán Cannon Nil
Socialist PartyMr Michael Murphy  €6,348
Christian Solidarity PartyMr Michael John Redmond€1,823*
People Before Profit AllianceMs Ailbhe Smyth Nil
The Workers PartyMr John Lowry Nil
The Communist Party of IrelandMr Eugene McCartan Nil
Christian Democrats (the National Party)Mr Daniel Desmond Nil
Socialist Workers PartyMs Bríd Smith Nil
 South Kerry Independent AllianceMr Donie DoodyNil
Total  €96,523

* Figure includes nine separate donations each of which are below the disclosure threshold.

The total amount of donations disclosed by political parties for 2008 was €96,523. This is the lowest figure disclosed since the commencement of the Act in 1997. Donations disclosed by Sinn Féin (€30,000) and the Green Party (€46,552) were from their elected members. The donation disclosed by the Socialist Party was from Mr Joe Higgins MEP. Donations disclosed by the Christian Solidarity Party were significantly below the disclosure threshold of €5,078.95. Only Fianna Fáil disclosed donations which were above the disclosure threshold and which were from outside the party. Details of the donations disclosed by political parties are contained in Appendix 1 to this report.

In its report on the disclosure of donations by political parties for 2007, the Standards Commission repeated its concerns in relation to the transparency of the funding of political parties. The Commission stated that its view was that the current provisions of the Act do not provide sufficient transparency in how political parties are funded and in particular how political parties and their candidates fund election campaigns.


GRECO Third Round Evaluation

Ireland became a member of GRECO (Council of Europe Groups of States Against Corruption) in May 1999. GRECO is responsible for monitoring observance of the Guiding Principles for the Fight against Corruption and implementation of the international legal instruments adopted in pursuit of the Programme of Action against Corruption. Article 11 of Recommendation Rec(2003)4 on Common Rules against Corruption and Funding of Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns provides that States should require political parties to keep proper books and accounts. Article 12 provides that States should require such accounts to specify all donations received by the party and to identify donations over a certain value. Article 13 provides that States should require political parties regularly, and at least annually, to make public such accounts, or as a minimum a summary of those accounts. Under the Act, however, political parties are not required to keep proper books and accounts or to make public their accounts. Neither are they required to specify all donations received by them.

The Standards Commission has stated on a number of occasions that political parties should be required to adhere to Articles 11, 12 and 13. In its report on the disclosure of donations by political parties for 2007 the Standards Commission recommended that any review of the provisions of the Act which may be undertaken as part of the proposal in the Programme for Government to establish an Electoral Commission should consider the implementation of Articles 11, 12 and 13 of Recommendation Rec(2003)4.

A key fundamental of the operation of GRECO is that States accept the requirement to be subject to evaluation in relation to the putting in place of measures to combat corruption. At its 24th Plenary meeting, GRECO decided that one of the areas to be evaluated in its third evaluation round is the transparency of party funding. The GRECO Third Evaluation Round is currently underway and a questionnaire on the transparency of party funding in Ireland has been completed. A team of evaluators is currently visiting Ireland to examine our legislation, practices and procedures. As part of this process the evaluators will meet with the Standards Commission. It is likely that Ireland's failure to adhere to Articles 11, 12 and 13 will be noted in the GRECO evaluation report.

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

A political party is defined in the Act as a party registered in the Register of Political Parties to contest a Dáil or European Parliament election. Section 71 of the Act provides that each such political party must appoint an appropriate officer for the purposes of furnishing the party's Donation Statement and carrying out certain duties provided for in the Act. 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. 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. Where a donation in excess of €5,078.95 has been received, the actual value and nature (i.e., cheque, cash or property/goods) of the donation must be stated together with the name, address and a description of the donor (i.e., whether the donor is an individual, company, etc). 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 by the appropriate officer 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. A person means an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons.

A donation can include:

  1. a donation of money;
  2. a donation of property or goods;
  3. the free use of property or goods;
  4. a free supply of services;
  5. the difference between the commercial price and the (lower) price charged for property, goods or services; (this can include a loan provided to a political party by a financial institution at terms and conditions which are more favourable than that provided by the financial institution to other individuals. It can also includes loans provided by persons other than financial institutions. Details of the Standards Commission's position with regard to the issuing and repayment of loans are set out in Part 4 of its guidelines for political parties on donations and prohibited donations which were published in December 2006).
  6. the net value of a person's contribution to a fund-raising event


Donations received from companies and their subsidiaries

During 2008 the Standards Commission was required to consider the issue of donations from connected companies. A donation is defined in section 22(2) of the Act as a contribution given for political purposes by any person. A person is defined in section 2 of the Act as including an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons. A body corporate and any of its subsidiaries are deemed to be the one person. The Act does not, however, provide a definition of a subsidiary of a body corporate. The Standards Commission received legal advice to the effect that the word subsidiary as used in the definition of the term person in section 2 of the Act should be construed by reference to the definition given to that word by section 155 of the Companies Acts. It wrote to the appropriate officers of each political party informing them of this advice and the meaning which should now be applied to the word subsidiary for the purposes of the Act.


Contributions by companies to fund-raising events

The definition of a donation includes the net value of a contribution to a fund-raising event. The costs of holding a fund-raising event are deducted from the proceeds of the event for the purposes of calculating the net value of each person's contribution to the event. While a political party must disclose the net value of a company's contribution to a fund-raising event, the company itself must, in accordance with section 26 of the Act, provide details of the gross value of its contribution to a fund-raising event in the annual report/return which it is required to furnish to the Companies Registration Office (CRO). The Donation Statement furnished by a political party is in respect of the previous calendar year. In many cases the return/report furnished by a company to the CRO is not in respect of a particular calendar year. There can be a difference, therefore, between the donations disclosed by a political party on its Donation Statement and the corresponding donations disclosed by a company on its annual return/report to the CRO.


Fund-raising events

Where a political party (including a branch of a political party) organises a fund-raising event on behalf of a TD, Senator, MEP or candidate at an election and the proceeds of the event are passed to him/her, the party is regarded as an intermediary accepting donations on the person's behalf. The contributions to the event are deemed to have been made to the TD, Senator, MEP or candidate concerned and he/she is responsible for disclosing the donations if this is required. If, however, the funds are retained by the party, the contributions to the event are deemed to have been made to the party.


Donations received by individual members of the party

Section 22(2)(c) of the Act provides that where a donation is made to a TD, Senator or MEP and 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)(c)(i) of the Act provides, however, that where a donation is made to a candidate of the party at a local election or to a member of the party who is a member of a local authority the donation is deemed to be a donation to the party. This provision has not been amended to take account of the fact that candidates at local elections and members of local authorities have their own disclosure requirements under the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, as amended. The Standards Commission regards a donation which is given to a candidate at a local election or a member of a local authority as having been made to a political party only if the candidate or member concerned has passed the donation to the party and has received a written acknowledgement from the party that it has accepted the donation. Political parties are not, therefore, required to account for donations which have been received by TDs, Senators, MEPs, Members of local authorities or candidates at elections and which have not been passed on to the party.

Part 3 - Political Donations Account

Section 23B(1) of the Act provides that, if a political party or any of its "accounting units" receives a monetary donation in excess of €126.97, it must open and maintain an account (a political donations account) in a financial institution in the State. (An accounting unit is 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 headquarters of a political party is an accounting unit if it has accepted a donation exceeding €126.97.

In accordance with section 23B(3), the Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration furnished to the Standards Commission by the appropriate officer of a political party must be accompanied by a statement (bank statement) provided by the financial institution in which the account was opened. The bank statement 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.

Part 4 - Receipt of Donation Statements and Certificates of Monetary Donations

In accordance with section 24(1)(b) of the Act, the Standards Commission produced a Donation Statement/Statutory Declaration form (08/PP/DS) and a Certificate of Monetary Donations/Statutory Declaration form (08/PP/CMD) for use in respect of the 2008 calendar year. These forms were sent to the appropriate officer of each of the fourteen registered political parties on 5 March 2009, for return by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2009.

A political party whose political donations account was not active during 2008 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 in respect of 2008. Table 2 shows the dates on which the Standards Commission received the statutory documentation from each political party.


Table 2 Dates on which the statutory documents were received

Political PartiesDonation Statement Received Certificate of Monetary Donations
and Bank Statements received
Fianna Fáil30/03/09 30/03/09 
Fine Gael31/03/0931/03/09
The Labour Party23/04/0923/04/09
The Green Party31/03/0931/03/09
The Progressive Democrats31/03/0931/03/09
Sinn Féin31/03/09 31/03/09
Socialist Party31/03/0931/03/09
Socialist Workers Party11/05/0911/05/09 No Bank Statement received
Christian Solidarity Party08/05/0908/05/09
Christian Democrats/The National Party03/04/0903/04/09
The Workers Party18/05/09Not received to date
The Communist Party27/05/0927/05/09
People Before Profit Alliance31/03/0931/03/09
South Kerry Independent Alliance29/04/0915/05/09


The appropriate officers of seven political parties furnished their statutory documentation within the statutory deadline. The appropriate officers of The Labour Party, The Socialist Workers Party, The Communist Party, The Workers Party, South Kerry Independent Alliance and Christian Solidarity were each issued a reminder letter on 20 April 2009. A second reminder letter issued to the appropriate officers of The Socialist Workers Party, The Communist Party, The Workers Party, South Kerry Independent Alliance and Christian Solidarity on 27 April 2009. Each reminder referred to the offence under section 25(1)(c) of the Act for failure to furnish a Donation Statement and where required to, a Certificate of Monetary Donations and bank statement by the statutory deadline. A final reminder issued by registered post on 6 May 2009 to the appropriate officers of The Socialists Workers Party, The Communist Party and The Workers Party. This letter informed the parties concerned that if the relevant return was not received within 7 days the Standards Commission would consider referring the matter to the Gardaí. A file in relation to the appropriate officer of The Communist Party was in the process of being prepared when his Donation Statement and Certificate of Monetary Donation was received.

Part 5 - 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 to the Standards Commission not later than 14 days after its receipt.

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

  1. an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside the island of Ireland, or
  2. a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which one of more of its principal activities is directed.


The Standards Commission was not notified by any political party of the receipt of an anonymous or foreign donation.

Section 23A(1) of the Act provides that the maximum value of donations which a political party may accept from 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. Part 6 of the Standards Commission's guidelines for political parties on donations and prohibited donations sets out the steps which a political party should take to ensure that donations from the same donor in the same calendar year are properly aggregated.

When furnishing the party's Donation Statement, Fianna Fáil's Director of Finance, Mr David Burke informed the Standards Commission that in May 2008 Boyle Sports Ltd. had made a direct donation of €5,000 to Fianna Fáil HQ. Unknown to Fianna Fáil HQ, Fianna Fáil Louth CDC branch had also accepted a donation of €2,000 from this company. When the party became aware in March 2009 that donations exceeding the maximum prescribed limit had been accepted in 2008 from this company, a refund of €900 was made to Boyle Sports by Fianna Fáil Louth CDC. The party provided evidence of having refunded the excess donation.

The Standards Commission informed Mr Burke that where a donation in excess of the maximum prescribed limit is received, the person receiving the donation must return the excess donation within 14 days of its receipt. In this case it would seem that the donation accepted by Louth CDC had brought the aggregate value of donations received by the party from Boyle Sports above the maximum acceptance limit. In that regard the "responsible person" of Louth CDC should have returned the excess donation to the company within 14 days. Failing to comply with this requirement was a contravention of the Act and an offence under section 25 of the Act. It is the practice of the Standards Commission, however, not to seek a prosecution of this offence if the Act has otherwise been complied with - i.e., the excess donation has been returned. The Standards Commission informed Mr Burke that it did not intend to take any further action in terms of a referral of the matter to the DPP/Gardaí.

The Standards Commission drew the party's attention to its guidelines for political parties on donations and prohibited donations. Part 6 of the guidelines recommends "that all donations exceeding €100 in value which are received by a branch or subsidiary organisation of the party must be recorded and notified to the party's appropriate officer for the purposes of observing the maximum prescribed limit." Part 5 of the guidelines states that "the onus is on a person accepting a donation to check with the donor and/or with the party's appropriate officer that acceptance of the donation will not bring the total amount of donations received by the party from the donor above the maximum prescribed limit". Had the procedures recommended in the guidelines been followed, acceptance of a donation in excess of the maximum prescribed limit might have been avoided. The Standards Commission suggested that the party might use this experience to once again bring the Standards Commission's guidelines to the attention of responsible persons of accounting units, treasurers of branches of the party or any other officer who might be accepting donations on the party's behalf.

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. The "responsible person" is the treasurer or any other person responsible for dealing with donations to the unit.

An accounting unit, on receipt of a monetary donation in excess of €126.97, must also open and maintain a political donations account in a financial institution in the State. The responsible person must, by 31 March each year, furnish a statement from the financial institution in which the account is held together with the Certificate of Monetary Donations, to the Standards Commission, 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.

The Standards Commission wrote to the appropriate officers of each political party on 6 January 2009 requesting details of the party's accounting units. The letter provided details of each accounting unit of the party which had made a return to the Standards Commission in respect of 2007. The appropriate officer was asked to inform the Standards Commission of any change of an accounting unit and/or their responsible person (including change of contact details) and to provide details of any accounting units and their responsible persons which were not on the list.

On 12 March 2009 the Standards Commission wrote to the responsible person of each accounting unit notified to it. A Certificate of Monetary Donations/Statutory Declaration form was enclosed with the letter. In recognition of the fact that the political donations accounts of some accounting units may not have been active during 2008 a separate form (Form 2) was also enclosed. Where an accounting unit's political donations account was not active during 2008, the responsible person of the accounting unit was required to complete Form 2 only and was not required to complete the Statutory Declaration or to forward a copy of a bank statement in respect of 2008.

Table 3 gives details of the number of accounting units of each party contacted by the Standards Commission in 2009. Six political parties have accounting units and the position with regard to returns received from these accounting units is as set out in the table. A number of accounting units informed the Standards Commission that they had never received a monetary donation exceeding €126.97. The Standards Commission notified party headquarters accordingly. The Standards Commission is still pursuing accounting units which have not provided a return or otherwise replied to it.


Table 3 - Accounting Units contacted in 2009

Political PartyReceived Not Received
Fianna Fáil2138
Fine Gael3115
Progressive Democrats1611
Labour Party253
Green Party3114
Sinn Féin96
Total13387

The Standards Commission continues to experience difficulties in supervising these provisions of the Act. It has highlighted these difficulties in annual and other reports and has suggested that the responsible person of a branch of a political party should be required to notify the Standards Commission if a donation in excess of €126.97 is received. An offence might be introduced in the Act for failing to comply with this requirement. This would remove responsibility from appropriate officers to notify the Standards Commission of all branches of the party which have received donations in excess of €126.97.

Part 7 - Publication of Statutory Documentation

In accordance with 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. In accordance with section 24(7)(b) of the Act, the Standards Commission has informed the Minister for Finance that a Donation Statement has been received from each of the parties qualified to receive Exchequer funding under the Electoral Acts (Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, The Labour Party, Sinn Féin, The Green Party and The Progressive Democrats).

In accordance with section 73 of the Act, the Standards Commission has made the Donation Statements/Statutory Declarations available for public inspection and copying at its offices on 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2. The information is also available in summary form on www.sipo.gov.ie

In accordance with section 23(B)(8) of the Act, details of Certificates of Monetary Donations and bank statements furnished to the Standards Commission by political parties and their accounting units will not be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas or put on public display.

Appendix 1 - Details of donations disclosed by political parties

Green Party
Value of Donation
Type of Donation Description of Donor Name and Address of Donor
6,348 Standing Order IndividualCiarán Cuffe TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
6,348 Standing Order IndividualPaul Gogarty TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
6,348 Standing Order IndividualJohn Gormley TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
6,348 Standing Order IndividualEamon Ryan TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
6,348 Standing Order IndividualTrevor Sargent TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
6,348 Cheque IndividualMary White TD
Dáil Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
4,232 Standing Order IndividualSenator Dan Boyle
Seanad Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
4,232 Standing Order IndividualSenator Deirdre De Burca
Seanad Éireann
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
Total €46,552   
Sinn Féin
Value of Donation
Type of Donation Description of Donor Address of Donor
6,000 Standing Order IndividualCaoimghín Ó Caoláin TD
Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Standing Order IndividualArthur Morgan TD
Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Standing Order IndividualAengus Ó Snodaigh TD
Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Cheque IndividualMartin Ferris TD
Leinster House
Dublin 2
6,000 Bank Transfer IndividualMary Lou McDonald
44 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
Total 30,000   
Fianna Fáil
Value of Donation
Type of Donation Description of Donor Address of Donor
6,300 ChequeCompanyBoyle Sports Ltd.
Finnabair Ind. Park
Dundalk
Co. Louth
5,500ChequeCompanyPhelim McCloskey
c/o Mosney Irish Holidays plc.
Mosney
Co. Meath
Total €11,800   
Socialist Party
Value of Donation
Type of Donation Description of Donor Address of Donor
6,348.6012 monthly payments of €529.05IndividualJoe Higgins MEP
155 Briarwood Close Mulhuddart
Dublin 15
Total €6,348.60   
Cómhar Chriostaí - Christian Solidarity Party
Value of Donation
Type of Donation Description of Donor Name and Address of Donor
360.00 Bankers Order IndividualS. Lacken
52 Foxrock Avenue
Dublin 18
200.00 Cheque IndividualMrs Nora Lynch
37 Eaton Heights
Cobh
Co. Cork
228.60 Bankers Order IndividualCanice Kearney
Athgoe South
Newcastle
Co. Dublin
200.00 Bankers Order IndividualCatherine Bennett
Dunmore
Hawkes Rd.
Bishopstown
Co. Cork
137.16 Bankers Order IndividualM. Maguire
26 Ballyroan Crescent
Dublin 16
152.40 Bankers Order IndividualM Ó Durcain
152.40 Bankers Order IndividualOlive Lynch
1st Floor Flat
2 O'Rahilly Street
Nenagh
Co. Tipperary
240.00 Bankers Order IndividualJoe Keane
152.40 Bankers Order IndividualPat & K. Cummins
Kilcolman
Ballaghadereen
Co. Roscommon
Total €1,822.96