FF: don't expect a 'drink-in' this year
Published 11/09/2011 | 05:00
Fianna Fail is now so strapped for cash that the party's dwindling band of TDs and senators have been asked to pay for their own bed and breakfast at their strategy meeting, which begins tomorrow.
Just 12 months after the lavish 'drink-in' at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway, which marked the beginning of the end for Brian Cowen following that infamous Morning Ireland interview, financial reality has finally hit Fianna Fail.
The soldiers of destiny, now comprising just 19 TDs and 14 senators, will be on war-time rations at the Maldron Hotel in Tallaght, Dublin, as the party tries to deal with a massive debt.
Even before the general election, the party had debts of €3.6m and the disastrous campaign put it even further in the red, with one estimate putting the debt at close to €5m earlier this year.
While some progress has been made in reducing the massive hole in the party finances, it still owes between €2m and €3m, informed sources have told the Sunday Independent.
Ahead of the two-day, one-night get-together in Tallaght before the Dail resumes, TDs and senators were told by letter from party headquarters to pay their own way.
"Regrettably, due to the financial constraints on the party at this particular time we have no alternative but to ask each member to contribute to the huge expense involved in this particular event by paying directly for their hotel bed and breakfast," party members were told.
THE DEMISE OF FIANNA FAIL THE INSIDE STORY, PAGE 18
The meeting of the parliamentary party will include a luncheon on Tuesday, to which local party activists have been invited. The meeting will then conclude promptly after the meal.
"It will be business-like. There will be no frills. We haven't got the money," one TD told the Sunday Independent.
Last year, former minister and party treasurer Noel Dempsey told a national executive meeting that the party's debt was €3.6m.
A nationwide draw and other fundraising initiatives brought this down to below €3m but the general election then added substantially to the debt burden.
Ironically, the party does have some €2m of State funding in a separate account built up over a number of years.
But that money can only be used for administration and research. It cannot be used to defray costs associated with an election campaign.
Party leader Micheal Martin remains seriously concerned about the perilous state of the Fianna Fail finances, especially at a time when the financial institutions have tightened up access to credit.
The key factor in the party's decision not to put forward a candidate for the presidency was the belief that a Fianna Fail candidate would have little chance of success at this stage.
But another important element was cost. A presidential campaign would cost some €500,000 and the leader wants to concentrate the party's meagre resources on the local and European elections in 2014.
The by-election to fill the late Brian Lenihan's seat in Dublin West will be held in tandem with the presidential election and two referenda on October 27.
Mr Lenihan was the only Fianna Fail TD left in Dublin after the party's disastrous general election campaign, but there is little confidence within the party that it will retain his seat.