Opposition anger at FF fundraising 'forum'

A planned fundraising drive by Fianna Fáil could undermine proper standards in Irish politics, Opposition parties claimed today.

A planned fundraising drive by Fianna Fáil could undermine proper standards in Irish politics, Opposition parties claimed today.

Labour and the Greens criticised reports that the main Government party is selling membership for a ‘Forum of Opportunity’ scheme to business people in a bid to raise funds for the next General Election.

A promotional leaflet promises members they will receive “networking opportunities” with ministers and TDs if they pay membership fees of €1,500 a year for three years.

The Opposition parties today both criticised the scheme and claimed it was attempting to sell influence in return for political donations.

Labour’s Environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore claimed Fianna Fáil was again preparing to use “doubtful means to build up its war chest” for the next General Election campaign.

“Like any other party Fianna Fáil is entitled to raise funds in accordance with the law, but it is not entitled to sell influence to business people or offer access to ministers in return for substantial donations to the party’s coffers,” he said.

The Dublin TD compared the Forum for Opportunity to the Taca organisation established in the 1960s by former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and others.

Mr Gilmore said Fianna Fáil spent huge amounts of money on the last General Election and was now clearly planning an even greater spending splurge for the next election.

“This is clearly why Taca II has now been established.”

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent claimed Fianna Fáil’s fundraising scheme was “undermining proper standards for political conduct”.

He described it as the ‘Lillie’s Bordello club’ approach to lobbying, in reference to the popular Dublin nightspot.

“You think you have joined the democratic club only to find there is an inner circle club which will cost more to join. This whole process undermines proper standards of political conduct.

“Under Fianna Fáil’s rules if you have the money you will gain exclusive access. Fianna Fáil are now offering the chance to buy influence.

“This exposes the lie that all are equal under the democratic process. With cynical fundraising schemes such as this, is it any wonder that the public are turned off by this arrogant FF/PD Government and the political process.

Mr Sargent said the Taoiseach “should abandon this extremely cynical fundraising proposal” if he was serious about preventing corruption in Irish political life.

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