Monday 16 January 2017

FF had biggest party as boom builders handed over €300,000

Cormac McQuinn and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 16/02/2012 | 05:00

FIANNA FAIL received the most donations by far from developers during the boom years.

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During its 14 years in power, the party actively courted the big developers, and not just at the infamous Galway Races.

Between 2001 and 2010, the party hauled in almost €300,000 from a small number of construction firms whose donations were examined by the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fail's now defunct coalition partners in the PDs received €108,000 from the same companies during this period. All of the firms were behind large Celtic Tiger-era projects and all now have dealings with NAMA.

Donegal builder Pat Doherty's Harcourt Developments built the Park West business campus in Dublin and is behind the Titanic Quarter project in Belfast.

His firm also has extensive interests in Britain. Harcourt Developments, and its subsidiary Airscape, gave €129,000 to Fianna Fail and €44,900 to the PDs.

Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett's Treasury Holdings donated €69,295 to Fianna Fail and €59,000 to the PDs, in part through its companies Castle Market Holdings, Spencer Dock Development Company and Treasury Group.

During the boom, Treasury built the National Convention Centre in Dublin and bought the iconic Battersea Power Station in London.

In January, Nama appointed receivers to much of Treasury's assets, though the property group is challenging this in the High Court.

Builder Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Group gave €16,800 to Fianna Fail and €4,000 to the PDs through two of its companies.

Split

Ballymore also gave €74,000 to unspecified political parties with a spokesman explaining that these contributions "were randomly split between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and a few Independents".

Durkan New Homes gave €85,000 to Fianna Fail over seven years, with the Durkan family reportedly attending the party's bashes at the Galway Races in 2006 and 2007.

Fine Gael got a combined €45,000 between Treasury, Harcourt Developments, and Ballymore and Labour received €17,000 from the latter two.

Of the combined €553,000 in donations from these builders, just €182,800, or 33pc, was disclosed to SIPO.

Belatedly, Fianna Fail has become a convert to banning corporate donations.

In the 1960s, the party fundraised through Taca, an organisation regarded by many as an example of formalised corruption.

In the 1980s, Charlie Haughey's lifestyle was propped up by businessmen and Fianna Fail figures accepted payments from property developers for rezonings.

In the 1990s, Des Richardson, the party fundraiser and close friend of Bertie Ahern, operated the party's fundraising from a suite in the Berkeley Court Hotel.

In the 2000s, the party's fundraising became synonymous with the corporate tent at the Galway Races.

But from 2010, the party has returned to the Obama model of fundraising, targeting sums of less than €100 from as many supporters as possible.

Much like the national finances, the former party hierarchy squandered the boom, leaving Fianna Fail heavily in debt. Fianna Fail's fundraising executive, Darragh McShea, has been praised in recent years for his role in more than doubling the party's income from the national draw.

The 26-year-old from Ballyshannon in south Donegal has worked for party headquarters for the past four years.

Irish Independent

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