FF failed to disclose thousands in donations

FIANNA FÁIL has failed to disclose to the ethics watchdog tens of thousands of euro in corporate donations.

An Irish Examiner investigation has revealed the party took donations either side of the 2007 general election which were above the declaration threshold and should have been notified to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) – but were not.

Two of them – from Dublin building firm Durkan New Homes – exceeded the legal limit that a party can accept from a single company in one year.

Under electoral law, a party cannot accept a donation exceeding €6,348.69, or aggregate donations exceeding the same amount, from the same donor in a single year.

However, the party must only disclose to SIPO donations exceeding €5,078.95. Any amounts beneath that threshold remain hidden from public view – allowing parties to take in massive sums without having to declare it.

But businesses are also obliged to declare political donations in their annual reports to the Companies Registration Office.

And a comprehensive investigation of these reports by this paper has revealed more than €110,000 of largely undeclared income for the main political parties – and give a glimpse for the first time into the political system’s hidden money.

Company details released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal sums given to Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats were above disclosure limits.

Durkan New Homes donated €7,426 to Fianna Fáil in 2006 and another €15,658 in 2007. Neither sum was disclosed and both were above the legal limit a party can accept.

In a statement, Fianna Fáil maintained it abided by electoral law at all times.

The PDs accepted €6,200 from Ballymore Properties over the latter’s financial year, which ran from April 2006 to March 2007. The PDs said its non-disclosure could be excused because the payment in question straddled two years. Similarly, another four donations to Fianna Fáil were above the declaration threshold and stretched over two reporting years – the party did not cite this defence.

The accounts also revealed how the arbitrary nature of these limits, set in electoral legislation, allowed the bulk of money to legitimately sneak under the radar.

For example, Harcourt Developments and an associated company, Airscape Ltd, gave UAE Dh50,484 (€10,200) to a number of parties which was not declared.

In all, 26 companies detailed donations in their accounts, with the total coming to €113,731 – only a small percentage was declared by the parties.


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