All parties contesting elections in the Republic of Ireland will have to comply with Irish laws on political donations and corruption – regardless of where they are operating – under new measures being proposed by Fine Gael, Senator Mary Seery Kearney has said.
“As part of the Government’s review of SIPO’s powers, Fine Gael is seeking to introduce legislation to crack down on Sinn Féin’s practice of using lax Northern Irish regulations on political donations to accept massive political gifts.
“As the recent €4m will-donation to Sinn Féin has shown, there is a massive loophole in Irish electoral law where unlimited donations can be received through a party’s Northern Ireland operation.
“As part of the review of SIPO, Fine Gael will be seeking amendments to the SIPO legislation requiring all parties contesting elections in the Republic of Ireland to comply with Irish laws on ethics, political donations, and corruption, regardless of where they are operating.
Senator Seery Kearney continued: “This would require parties operating on an all-island basis and contesting elections in both Northern Ireland and the Republic to adhere to our laws regarding political donations. It would also mean that party officers could be prosecuted here for breaking our ethics and corruption laws in another State.
“There is considerable and widespread concern about the recent donation of €4 million to Sinn Féin by an Englishman with no known connection to Irish politics. Sinn Féin has exploited the Northern Irish loophole to claim that this gift is not subject to the strict laws regarding donations which apply to all political parties operating in this State, laws which were brought in by Fine Gael to radically reform the previous donations culture. The UK’s Electoral Commission website shows the €4m is being processed through the North despite the fact that the will stated it was “for the political party in the Republic of Ireland known at this time as Sinn Féin”
“This sum of money would allow Sinn Féin to fight three general election campaigns in the Republic and still be left with a profit. To donate this money legally in the Republic would require around 1,600 individual donations.
“Other political parties operating in the Republic routinely refuse donations on the basis that they exceed the limits permitted.
“In the interests of democratic fairness and transparency, Fine Gael believes Mary Lou McDonald as the leader of Sinn Féin should not accept a penny more of this donation than the legal limit of €2,500. That would mean returning over €3,998,500 to the Estate of Mr William Hampton.
“If Sinn Féin insist on exploiting the Northern Irish donations loophole, then we want Mary Lou McDonald to set out how she will ensure that not one penny of this donation is used in this State.
“We will also seek to legislate in this regard as a matter of urgency and are confident that there will be cross-party support for closing down this major loophole.
“I would like to commend my Fine Gael colleague, Senator Barry Ward, party spokesperson on justice, for bringing forward this important legislation.”