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Saturday 25 March 2017

Fianna Fail refuse to reveal magnitude of party's debt

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

FIANNA Fail is deeper in debt following its dismal general election campaign. Having gone into the election almost €3m in debt, the party's liabilities are believed to have increased even further, with one party source estimating that it could be as high as €5m.

A party spokesman claimed the debt was substantially less than €5m, although he acknowledged that it had increased since the general election.

Fianna Fail has refused to reveal how much the party owes. Last year, former minister Noel Dempsey, who is treasurer of Fianna Fail, told a national executive meeting that the debt was €3.6m. A national draw and other fundraisers brought the debt down to below €3m but it has shot up again since the general election.

Fianna Fail is also believed to have accumulated a €2m surplus in State funds last year but it cannot use this money to clear its debt.

The generous surplus was built up over several years under the State's system of funding political parties, according to party sources.

The rules stipulate that the money can only be used on administration and research and not political campaigns.

Fianna Fail's finance committee has been examining the party's accounts and is expected to report back to leader, Micheal Martin, shortly. The party's national executive will also be briefed.

But there was no mention of the party's parlous finances in a letter circulated by Mr Martin to members of the national executive last week.

He wrote that a national collection was to take place shortly and called on members to invite friends and colleagues to join the party.

He is also to tour the 43 constituencies next month and will finalise proposals for reforming the party within months.

"We've faced into a challenging election and had difficult days since then. I have been struck by the many messages of support and encouragement I have received from members and supporters across the country," he wrote.

Fianna Fail will struggle to clear its bills given the current economic climate and the proposed ban on corporate donations announced by the Government last week.

A new bill will ban corporate donations and lower the threshold above which donations must be declared.

Individuals will be limited to donations of €2,500 to political parties, while political candidates will be allowed to accept a maximum of €1,000.

Mr Martin has said his party is behind the ban and that it would rely on national collections and draws to pay down its debt rather than corporate donations.

Sunday Independent

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