Political parties collecting at church gates is a ‘scourge’

A local authority is taking a lead in trying to end the "scourge" of many church-goers being intimidated by some political parties taking up annual cash collections.

Although the courts ruled that political parties are ‘charities’ for occasions such as church-gate collections, Kerry County Council is seeking a national ban.

The council has forwarded a motion to local authorities countrywide to support a proposed prohibition of church-gate collections by political groups.

Most Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Sinn Féin members in Kerry supported the motion, which was tabled by Independent Brendan Cronin.

He said: “I object to the pressure and intimidation being put on Mass-goers by political lieutenants trying to squeeze money from the public attending Mass.”

Mr Cronin said almost €13m had been paid out of State funds to political parties in 2013.

He insisted that church-gate collections should be solely confined to far more deserving cases such as charities, along with voluntary and sporting organisations which are “financially struggling to survive”.

He described as a “scourge” the practice of taking up political collections outside churches and claimed many people were being made to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed into contributing money.

He was seconded by Cllr Toireasa Ferris (SF).

Meanwhile, Cllr Danny Healy-Rae (Ind) remarked: “We — the Healy-Rae family — have our own party and we got no bobs.”

South Kerry Independent Alliance councillor Michael Gleeson, however, opposed the motion, saying his party grouping received no State funds and was reliant on such collections.

He hoped that parties would conduct church-gate collections with “respect and dignity”, and would not be noting how much money was dropped in to boxes, and by whom, as had happened in the past.

Mr Gleeson also recalled a court ruling that political parties were regarded as charities for collection purposes.

Twenty-two councillors agreed to vote for the motion once the reference to “political lieutenants” was removed.

Council chairman John Brassil (FF) and Mr Gleeson voted against.

Four councillors abstained: Robert Beasley (SF), John Sheahan (FG), and Terry O’Brien and Graham Spring, both of Labour.

The motion will be circulated to councils around the country and is also expected to be sent to the Department of Justice.


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