Gilmore calls for spend limits to prevent ‘buying’ elections

THE leader of the Labour party last night called on the Government to restrict candidates’ spending in next year’s local elections.

Eamon Gilmore said he wanted to create a level playing pitch and prevent candidates from parties with deep war chests “buying” elections.

He was speaking at his party’s selection convention for local election candidates in the Cork city and Blarney electoral areas.

Environment Minister John Gormley published a green paper on local government earlier this week which aims to overhaul local government.

He said he was supportive of the introduction of spending limits, but he did not give any commitment that regulations would be introduced.

Mr Gilmore said while Mr Gormley may be personally supportive, he said he feared that Fianna Fáil will either block the move, or will delay it to such an extent that it will not apply for next year’s local elections.

“The failure to provide any spending limits for local election candidates is now an anomaly in our electoral laws that should be closed as soon as possible,” said Mr Gilmore.

“The purpose of expenditure limits is to help create a more level playing pitch and the failure to provide any limits for local election candidates favours parties with deep war chests and individual candidates with substantial personal wealth.

“A candidate’s chance of getting elected to a local authority should not be dependent on the size of his or her bank account.”

In its submission to the green paper, the Standards in Public Office Commission supported the principle of spending limits for local elections. It also suggested responsibility for the supervision and monitoring of disclosure of donations to local election candidates should be transferred from local authorities to an independent body.

Mr Gilmore said the standards commission would be ideally suited to do the job.

Figures from 2004 for the Carrigaline electoral area in Cork showed that Independent candidate Joe Harris spent €25,509 in an unsuccessful bid to be elected to Cork County Council, while Fianna Fáil councillor Deirdre Forde spent €21,000 in the run-up to the election.

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