Report on compliance by third parties in 2002/2003

Electoral Acts 1997 to 2002

Report by the Standards in Public Office Commission to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann (Ceann Comhairle) in accordance with section 4(1) of the Electoral Act, 1997

October 2003

Part 1. Introduction

Section 23C of the Electoral Act, 1997 (the 1997 Act), as amended by the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2001 (the 2001 Act), provides that a third party, i.e. any person other than a political party or a candidate at an election, who accepts, in a particular year, a donation for political purposes the value of which exceeds €126.97, must register with the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission).

A full definition of "third party", "donation" and "political purposes" is given in Part 2 below.

The provisions of section 23C came into effect on 1 January 2002. While they have on-going effect, they are particularly relevant during political campaigns such as elections or referenda. In 2002 they applied to the referendum on abortion on 6 March, the Dáil general election on 17 May and the referendum on the Nice Treaty on 19 October.

A public notice, providing information on the obligations attaching to third parties, was published by the Standards Commission in the daily newspapers on 24 January 2002. On the same day, articles relating to the new provisions appeared in a number of newspapers. Also on that day, an explanatory note, outlining the relevant provisions of the legislation, was posted on the website of the Standards Commission. The public notice was published during the following week in the Sunday and provincial newspapers.

The Standards Commission received a number of enquiries from potential third parties in response to the public notice, explanatory note and media coverage. Given the general nature of the publicity at the time and the extremely wide definition of political purposes, callers included individuals and numerous bodies ranging from charities, tidy towns committees, chambers of commerce, community organisations, etc., to those such as the Union for Europe Movement and the Pro-Life Campaign.

Those individuals and groups who made contact with the Standards Commission and who considered that they might be covered by the legislation were requested to write to the Standards Commission providing details of the individual or group, an account of the activities in which it was intended to engage and an outline of any normal source of funding.

Outside of campaigns like the referendum on abortion, the 2002 Dáil general election and the Nice Treaty referendum, and because the requirement to register as a third party applies at all times once a donation of more than €126.97 for political purposes has been received, the Standards Commission is required to deal with any other case where there is evidence that an individual or group has received such a donation and has not registered.

In that regard, unless it has reason to believe that the individual or group is likely to have received a donation of more than €126.97 for political purposes, it is not the intention of the Standards Commission to pursue each individual and group involved in every type of campaign where the activities could be covered by the definition of political purposes. Such individuals or groups will, however, be contacted by the Standards Commission for clarification of their position if a complaint, or other information, is received about their failure to register.

The Standards Commission published a report in March 2003 containing details of all third parties which had applied for registration.

As well as the requirement to register with the Standards Commission, third parties must open and maintain a political donations account once a monetary donation of more than €126.97 has been received.

Third parties are prohibited from accepting donations with a total value in excess of
€6,348.69 from the same donor in the same year. They are also prohibited from accepting foreign donations.

The legislative provisions relating to registration, political donations accounts and prohibited donations are outlined in Part 2 of this report.

It should be noted that, in accordance with section 31(7) of the 1997 Act, groups and individuals who intended to incur expenditure at the 2002 Dáil general election and who were not connected to any political party or candidate at the election were required to register with the Standards Commission. Details of registration by such groups and individuals are included in the report of March 2003 referred to above. Where such groups or individuals actually incurred expenditure at the election, they were required to furnish an Election Expenses Statement to the Standards Commission. An account of the Election Expenses Statements so furnished is contained in the report by the Standards Commission on Election Expenses Statements and Statutory Declarations received from election agents of candidates, national agents of political parties and other persons at the Dáil general election, which was published on 11 June 2003. However, not all of the groups or individuals in question would have received donations valued in excess of €126.97. This report relates solely to those groups and individuals who did receive donations valued in excess of €126.97 and who were, therefore, in addition to any other registration requirement, obliged to register with the Standards Commission in accordance with section 23C of the 1997 Act.

Part 2. Relevant legislation

Section 22(2)(aa) of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that a third party means any person, other than a political party registered in the Register of Political Parties under Part III of the Electoral Act, 1992 or a candidate at an election, who accepts, in a particular year, a donation the value of which exceeds €126.97. A person includes an individual, a body corporate and an unincorporated body of persons.

Section 23C of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that, as soon as may be after the receipt by it of a donation the value of which exceeds
€126.97 and before incurring any expenses for political purposes or, as the case may be, incurring, subsequent to that receipt, any further such expenses, a third party shall furnish to the Standards Commission in writing -

(a) the name and address of the third party and the name and address of the responsible person, or each responsible person, in relation to the third party,

(b) a statement of the nature, purpose and estimated amount of the donations to, and proposed expenses of, the third party in any year, and

(c) an indication of the third party's connection, if any, with any political party or candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election or referendum or otherwise.

Section 22(2)(a) of the 1997 Act, as amended by the 2001 Act, provides that a donation means any contribution given for political purposes by any person, whether or not the person is a member of a political party, and includes all or any of the following, namely -

  • a donation of money;
  • a donation of property or goods;
  • the free use of property or goods;
  • the free supply of services;
  • the difference between the commercial price and the price charged for the purchase, acquisition or use of property or goods or the supply of any service, where the price, fee or other consideration is less than the commercial price.

Section 22(2)(aa) of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that political purposes means any of the following purposes, namely -

(i) (I) to promote or oppose directly or indirectly, the interests of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas or a representative in the European Parliament, or

(II) to present, directly or indirectly the policies or a particular policy of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party, or

(III) to present, directly or indirectly, the comments of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party with regard to the policy or policies of another political party, political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, representative in the European Parliament, third party or candidate at an election or referendum or otherwise, or

(IV) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a third party in connection with the conduct or management of any campaign conducted with a view to promoting or procuring a particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies or functions of the Government or any public authority;

(ii) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election or to solicit votes for or against a candidate or to present the policies or a particular policy of a candidate or the views of a candidate on any matter connected with the election or the comments of a candidate with regard to the policy or policies of a political party or a political group or of another candidate at the election or otherwise;

(iii) otherwise to influence the outcome of the election or a referendum or campaign referred to in paragraph (i)(IV) of this definition.

Section 22(2)(aa) of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that the responsible person in relation to a third party means the person or persons responsible for the organisation, management or financial affairs of the third party.

Section 23A of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, limits to €6,348.69 the aggregate value of donations which a third party can accept from the same donor in a calendar year. The section also provides that a third party cannot accept a donation, of whatever value, from an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside the island of Ireland or from a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which the carrying on of one or more of its principal activities is directed.

Section 23B of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that, if it receives a monetary donation of more than €126.97, a third party must open and maintain a political donations account and furnish to the Standards Commission, by 31 March in every year, a statement provided by the financial institution in which the political donations account was opened specifying the transactions that have taken place in relation to the account during the preceding year together with a certificate stating that all monetary donations received by the third party during the preceding year were lodged to the said account and all amounts debited from the account were used for political purposes.

Section 23B(8) of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that the Standards Commission shall retain the statements, certificates and statutory declarations furnished to it pursuant to section 23(B), and shall not disclose the contents of those statements, certificates or declarations unless ordered by a Court to do so or save when such disclosure is required in connection with an investigation held by the Standards Commission.

Section 25(1)(e) of the 1997 Act, as inserted by the 2001 Act, provides that the responsible person of a third party shall be guilty of an offence if he or she fails to comply with section 23C.

Section 4 (1) of the 1997 Act, provides that the Standards Commission shall consider every notification furnished to it under section 23 and, if it considers it appropriate to do so, shall furnish a report in writing to the Chairman of the Dáil (Ceann Comhairle) on any matter arising in relation to such notifications. Pursuant to section 4 (5) of the 1997 Act, the Chairman of the Dáil is required to lay the report before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Part 3. Registration of Third Parties during 2002

A total of twenty-seven groups or individuals registered as third parties during 2002. Of these, seven registered in connection with the referendum on abortion, four registered in connection with the Dáil general election and sixteen registered in connection with the referendum on the Nice Treaty (see Part 5 for full details).

The Standards Commission, in its correspondence with each of the twenty-seven registered third parties, requested the responsible person to confirm in writing whether or not the third party is continuing to operate during 2003. Confirmation was received that the following five groups are still operating in 2003:

  • Irish Alliance for Europe
  • Equal in Europe
  • The National Platform
  • Immigration Control Platform
  • PANA

A sixth group, Éire ar son na Beatha, advised that, up to the date of the enquiry, it had not operated so far during 2003 and that a decision had yet to be taken on whether or not it would be providing an on-going service to pro-life groups nationally.

IFSC for Yes advised that, on the date of the enquiry, its account was still open, but that it expected to finalise matters and close the account and would be forwarding a final Certificate of Monetary Donations to the Standards Commission.

Part 4. Political Donations Accounts / Certificates of Monetary Donations

The requirement to open a separate political donations account is contained in section 23B of the 1997 Act, as introduced by the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2001. The requirement commenced with effect from 1 January 2002. If a registered third party received a monetary donation of more than €126.97 during 2002, it was required to open and maintain a political donations account in a financial institution in the State and to lodge that donation and any further donations received, of whatever value, to the account.

The responsible person of that third party was required to furnish to the Standards Commission a Certificate of Monetary Donations and a Statutory Declaration, as well as a statement from the financial institution where the third party had opened the political donations account. A responsible person of a third party who failed to comply with this requirement would be guilty of an offence under the legislation.

On 5 March 2003 the Standards Commission wrote to the responsible person of each registered third party and enclosed a Certificate of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declaration form for completion and return. The form was to be accompanied by a statement from the financial institution giving details of transactions relating to the political donations account during 2002. The Standards Commission also requested the responsible person to confirm, in writing, that no donation in excess of the limit of €6,348.69 was received and that no foreign donation was received by the third party.

Of the 27 registered third parties:

  • 22 have fully complied with the legislation.
  • Democrats against Nice has, to date, failed to provide a statement from a financial institution and has also failed to confirm that no donations in excess of the limit of €6,348 and no foreign donations were received. The Standards Commission is continuing to pursue this matter. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declaration form has been completed and furnished to the Standards Commission.
  • Alliance for a NO Vote has, to date, failed to confirm that no donations in excess of the limit of €6,348.69 and no foreign donation were received. Recent correspondence to the address provided has been returned undelivered. The matter is being pursued.
  • Neither Galway for a Safe Environmentnor Éire ar son na Beatha opened a political donations account. Instead, they provided details of the monetary donations which were received. This was acceptable to the Standards Commission.
  • One group, Concerned Christians against Nice , opened an account in a credit union, which is not a financial institution for the purposes of the legislation. The group complied with the provisions of the legislation in all other aspects.

As stated previously, in accordance with section 23(B)(8) of the Electoral Act, 1997, as amended, neither the statements of financial institutions nor the Certificate of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declaration forms are available for public inspection.

Part 5. Registered Third Parties during 2002

List of Responsible Persons as at time of registrationCampaign
Mr John O'Reilly
Secretary
Pro-Life Campaign
34 Upper Gardiner Street
Dublin 1
Referendum on Abortion
Mr David Manly
Secretary
Pro Life Movement Association
39 Mountjoy Square
Dublin 1
Referendum on Abortion
Mr Tony O'Brien
Chief Executive
Irish Family Planning Association
Solomons House
42A Pearse Street
Dublin 2
Referendum on Abortion
Mr Raymond Clare
Pro-Life Alliance
60A Capel Street
Dublin 1
Referendum on Abortion
Mr Robert J Durie
Abortion Reform
Ballyogan House
Graiguenamanagh
Co Kilkenny
Referendum on Abortion
Mr Patrick Buckley
Éire ar son na Beatha
'Glenrua'
Ballinclea Road
Killiney
Co Dublin
Referendum on Abortion
Ms Sinead Kennedy
Alliance for a NO Vote
Apartment 1
10 Herbert Place
Dublin 2
Referendum on Abortion
Elect Carlow Candidates Organisation (ECCO)*
Chamber of Commerce
Hadden Centre
Tullow Street
Carlow
* ECCO provided details of a number of persons involved in this campaign and advised that there was no one responsible person.
Dáil General Election 2002
Galway for Safe Environment*
c/o The Galway One World Centre
4th Floor, The Halls
Quay Street
Galway
* Correspondence with the Standards Commission was via the group's solicitors.
Dáil General Election 2002
No Incineration Alliance*
27 Highfield
Drogheda
Co. Louth
*The group did not provide the name and address of a responsible person at the time of registration. However, Ms. Áine Walsh advised that the Standards Commission could contact either herself, or the temporary Treasurer at the time, Ms. Eugenia Whelan, at the above address.
Dáil General Election 2002
Ms Violet Allen
c/o N9 Action Group
Crookstown
Ballytore
Athy
Co. Kildare
Dáil General Election 2002
Mr. Ciarán Toland
Ireland for Europe
91 Hampton Square
Navan Road
Dublin 7
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Professor Brigid Laffan
Irish Alliance for Europe
69 Fitzwilliam Square
Dublin 2
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr. Charles Ardagh
European Access Providers Limited
T/a Leap Broadband
54 Pembroke Road
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr Peter O'Dwyer
IFSC for Yes
54 Hainault Road
Foxrock
Co Dublin
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Ms Una McMahon
No to Nice Campaign
60A Capel Street
Dublin 1
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Ms Maria Cronin/Mr. Don O'Higgins
Directors
Irish Business and Employers Confederation
84/86 Lower Baggot Street
Dublin 2
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Ms Angela Kerins
Chairperson
Disability Alliance for Europe
Roslyn Park
Sandymount
Dublin 4
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Ms Joan Lane
Concerned Christians against Nice
Glynn Cottage
Hazelwood
Mallow
Co Cork
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr Conor O'Brien
Honorary Treasurer
Equal in Europe
120 Mount Anville
Dublin 14
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr. Anthony Coughlan
Secretary
The National Platform
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr. Anthony Coughlan
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr Dónal Ó Lochlainn
Immigration Control Platform
60 Kilbarrack Road
Sutton
Dublin 13
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr. Joe Higgins T.D.
Alliance Against Nice
155 Briarwood Close
Mulhuddart
Dublin 15
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Ms Olive Braiden
Chairperson
Women for a Yes Vote
235 New Cabra Road
Dublin 7
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr. Eugene MacCartan
Democrats against Nice
47 Shandon Crescent
Dublin 7
Referendum on Nice Treaty
Mr Roger Cole
PANA
113 Springhill Ave
Blackrock
Co Dublin
Referendum on Nice Treaty