European election candidates had spent almost €60,000 combined on Facebook advertising up to last Sunday, figures made available by the social media giant have revealed.
Of this, almost a quarter was spent by just one candidate.
As part of its attempts to bring greater transparency to how politicians use the social media platform, Facebook has enabled users to check campaign pages to see how much public representatives have spent on political advertising.
Spending can vary depending on the targeted reach of each ad, meaning there is no one standard price per ad.
An Irish Examiner analysis of the 59 candidates running in Friday’s European elections shows that, between March and last Sunday, May 19, a total of 33 hopefuls spent approximately €59,865 between them on Facebook ads.
The pages for each individual party were not factored into these figures, as these pages also run advertising for the local elections, divorce referendum, and mayor plebiscite.
Therefore it is likely that advertising promoting candidates has also been bought by their respective parties.
Unsurprisingly, a significant amount of the spending by European candidates - roughly €26,011 - was spent in the week up to last Sunday as the campaign entered the final stretch.
Top of the pile was Labour’s Dominic Hannigan, who ran some 188 ads since March, at a cost of €15,806 - €2,135 of which was spent in the week up to last Sunday.
The former TD is hoping to win a seat in the four-seater Midlands North-West constituency.
Next was Mr Hannigan’s constituency rival and sitting MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who has spent €8,557 on ads since March.
Former Rose of Tralee and Fine Gael candidate Maria Walsh - also hoping to win a seat in Midlands North-West - ranked third having spent €6,756 over the same time period.
Rounding off the top ten spenders up to last Sunday are Mark Durkan (Fine Gael, Dublin, €3,402), Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin, Midlands North West, €3,117), Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael, South, €2,634), Seán Kelly (Fine Gael, South, €2,581), Malcolm Byrne (Fianna Fáil, South, €2,106) and Alice Mary Higgins (Independent, €1,889).
At the other end of the spending spectrum, Facebook does not give a specific figure for those who have paid for advertising, but whose outlay has not exceeded €100.
As such, seven candidates have bought advertising with Facebook, but only to the value of €100 or less.
These are Gillian Brien (Solidarity/People Before Profit), Ciarán Cuffe (Green Party), Billy Kelleher (Fianna Fáil), Dilip Mahapatra (independent), Liam Minehan (Independent), Liadh Ní Riadh (Sinn Féin), and Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party).
When broken down by party, Labour were the biggest spenders up to last Sunday, with €18,001, closely followed by Fine Gael (€17,542), Fianna Fáil (€4,802 approx), Sinn Féin (€3,646 approx), the Green Party (€1,417 approx), Renua (€740), Solidarity People Before Profit (€506) and the Social Democrats (€438).
As of May 19, the 33 candidates who had taken out advertising had run 661 ads since March at an average price of €91 per spot.
With campaigns intensifying in the final week ahead of the election, it is expected that thousands more will be spent on Facebook advertising between last Sunday’s figures and when the polls close at 10pm on Friday night.