Political parties are out of pocket for snap election

Political parties are not financially ready for a snap election and any campaign would be done on a shoestring, it has emerged.

With a leadership race in Fine Gael expected to begin in the coming weeks, there is now an even greater threat of a snap general election being called.

However, many of the political parties are still seriously struggling financially after pumping funds into what was a long and protracted campaign leading up to last year’s general election.

While the 2016 annual accounts for political parties have yet to be published, in 2015 the major parties all recorded deficits and went on to spend massive amounts in the run-up to the election.

Annual accounts up until the end of 2015 show that Fine Gael had a deficit of €436,890. They went on to spend over €2.7m on election campaigning.

Fianna Fáil recorded a deficit of €134,074 at the end of 2015 and spent over €1.68m in the run-up to the election. Labour recorded a loss of €608,526 and, according to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) report into last year’s election, Brendan Howlin’s party spent over €1m on the election.

A political source said: “All parties will have spend a lot of money before the last election.

“All elections are expensive but the last election in particular cost a lot. It was coming for a long time, there was an extremely lengthy lead-in time so parties spent significant amounts on research and focus groups.

“It takes a good few years to build up resources again, it’s even more serious for parties that lost seats, like Fine Gael and Labour, because they would have less coming in from State allowances.”

Each party, depending on size and number of seats, is given an Oireachtas allowance, which is cut if a party loses elected members in an election.

Asked about the state of its financial affairs or whether it had increased fundraising efforts to prepare for another election, a Fine Gael spokesman said: “We can’t comment on the current accounts as they’re not published yet and no we don’t comment on our fundraising strategy generally.”

A Labour spokesman said the party had already ramped-up efforts to replenish funds.

For the first time in five years, Labour hosted a Rose Ball in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel over the weekend and held a fundraising event to tie in with the US elections.

The party, which haemorrhaged seats in the last election, is also planning to host selection conventions in five constituencies in the coming weeks as a way of preparing for a snap election.

Sinn Féin said it does not release financial reports to the media before they have gone to SIPO, but a spokesman added that “all parties continually fundraise outside of election cycles”.

The Green Party, which won two seats in last year’s election, said that its fundraising efforts are “small-scale”, and largely managed by local groups who run events like table quizzes.

“We do not take corporate donations, so we are mainly funded through small individual donations from party members and supporters,” it said.


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