Vast sums spread across the political spectrum
The Standard in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) highlighted the amount received by the political establishment in 2015. According to figures released today by the commission, political parties received €12.286 million in state funding for 2015.
The money was distributed under the Electoral Act 1997, as amended, and under the Parliamentary Activities Allowance legislation. €561,728 was paid to Independent members of Dáil Éireann whilst Independent Members of Seanad Éireann received €252,540 under the Parliamentary Activities legislation.
Fine Gael received €2,394,000, Fianna Faíl received €1,539,000, The Labour Party received €1,591,000 and Sinn Féin took home €976,000; a total of €5,456,000 between the four main parties.
These funds are provided by the exchequer, in accordance with Section 18 of the Act, and the funds received by qualified parties must be applied to “the general conduct and management of the party's affairs and the lawful pursuit by it of any of its objectives and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, any or all of the following purposes, namely -
(i) the general administration of the party,
(ii) research, education and training,
(iii) policy formulation, and
(iv) the co-ordination of the activities of the branches and members of the party."
It’s worth noting that the funding received may not be applied to, or used to recoup, election or referendum expenses. Apart from the ban on the use of funding in relation to electoral or referendum expenses, the Act does not make any reference to expenditure nor does it specify how these funds should be used.
Elsewhere the total funding made available in 2015 to the Parliamentary Party Leaders of the eight qualifying parties (Anti-Austerity Alliance, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, People before Profit Alliance, Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before Profit, Sinn Féin, Stop the Water Tax – Socialist Party and The Labour Party) amounted to €6.830 million.
Political donations made to the parties totalled €172,794 with Fine Gael taking in over €98,752. The Socialist Party came in second receiving €37,710 in private funding. Fianna Fail did not disclose their donations for 2015.
There were 22 political parties registered during 2015 to contest Dáil or European elections. Each of these parties was required to furnish a Donation Statement in respect of 2015 to the Commission by 31 March 2016. All donations exceeding €1,500 in value received by them during 2015 were required to be disclosed. The maximum value of donations which a political party could accept from the same donor in the year was €2,500.