Political parties shared total of €6m in state funding in 2017

Eight political parties shared state funding totalling almost €6 million in 2017, new figures released to day have revealed.

While state funding is not allowed to be used for election purposes, the parties are also attempting to boost their cash reserves with more than €2 million going unspent.

The report from the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) shows that Fine Gael, led by Leo Varadkar, as the largest party, received €1,663,390.

Of that, the party spent €1,270,180 and combined with unspent monies carried forward from 2016, Fine Gael brought a cash pile of €582,409 into 2018. This is up from €190,000 a year earlier.

The report shows that Fine Gael in 2017 spent €1,031,016 on general administration including salaries, €130,725 on the co-ordination of branches, €50,098 on helping women participate in politics and €9,214 on research and education.

The documents show that Fine Gael spent €53,119 on its Ard Fheis in Ballyconnell last October.

Fianna Fail, led by Micheal Martin, received the second largest state pay out totalling €1,593,126.

Of that, it spent a total of €1,244,462 during the 12 months.

As a result, like Fine Gael, it too has also not spent a large proportion of it money. In 2017, it did not spend a total of €370,894 and carried that amount into 2018.

This is compared to unspent monies of just €22,230 in 2016.

Fianna Fail spent a total of €816,383 on administration and salaries, €170,532 on research and education and €65,000 on policy formation. It also spent €131,273 on its Ard Fheis and other promotion activities for the party.

The Labour Party, led by Brendan Howlin, received a total of €524,809 in 2017 but spent a total of €682,857. This meant the party ate into some of its own large cash mountain which had been carried over from 2016. As a result, it had unspent monies totalling €429,982 at the end of last year.

Yet the party, with just 7 TDs, spent a staggering €88,615, on its national conference.

Sinn Fein, led by Mary Lou McDonald, received a total of €960,746 in 2017 but spent €1,018,822.

Like Labour, this meant it ate into its cash reserves. According to the SIPO report, Sinn Fein had unspent monies totalling €243,246 at the end of 2017.

According to the documents, it spent €108,041 on its Ard Fheis where Gerry Adams announced his intention to stand down and other conferences.

The combined Solidarity/People Before Profit group received €364,487 in 2017 and spent a total of €418,901. It has unspent cash totalling €131,582 at the end of 2017.

The Social Democrats received a total of €308,078 in state funding last year and spent a total of €367,834. It had €103,603 remaining.

The Green Party was paid €290,759 while Renua even though it has no national representatives got €258,596. It had €107,459 in unspent cash at the end of last year.

In total, the exact of money paid to the parties was €5,963,992.

Each qualified political party is paid annually a flat rate amount of €126,974 and a share of an annual sum which was set in 2001 at €3,809,214 and which increased in line with general pay increases in the civil service.

The 2017 fund including the flat rate amount stood at €5,963,992.

The share of the fund payable to a qualified political party is determined by expressing the first preference votes of the qualified party as a percentage of the total first preference votes received by all qualified political parties, the report said.

Explaining its high amount of unspent cash, a Fine Gael spokesperson said the party is constantly developing the party organisation across both national and local level.

"The surplus amount will be used to increase the party’s footprint at ground level and strengthen our parliamentary party activities at national level. This includes increasing our membership base, more activities in all constituencies and extra staff recruited where necessary.”

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