Fine Gael's fundraising plans land in the rough
Golf events abandoned after move to bring in new laws on party donations
FINE Gael has abandoned plans to hold golf fundraisers at the K Club in Kildare and London's Moor Park this year, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirmed the party's decision to dispense with the two events in response to questions on the Government's plans to bring in new legislation on political funding before the Dail ahead of the summer recess.
Asked specifically if Fine Gael would press ahead with its highly lucrative annual golf classics before passing that legislation, Mr Hogan said: "No, we won't be having any golf classics this year. I'm sorry to disappoint you. So there's no need for you to come down like you did last year."
The Environment Minister's pointed comment referred to a report on Fine Gael's K Club Golf Classic carried by the Sunday Independent in July of last year, in which we exclusively revealed how the party had sought and accepted donations from wealthy individuals and businesses.
Among those at the event -- which saw the party collect sums of €1,500 per 'four ball', ie a team of four players -- were EBS chief executive Fergus Murphy, leading estate agent Arthur French and Kerry football legend Mick O'Dwyer
The revelations surrounding the golf fundraiser, which was hosted by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, provoked outrage, even from within Fine Gael's own ranks.
Indeed, just two days later, Dublin South-East TD Lucinda Creighton issued a call in a speech to the McGill summer school for Fine Gael to be more than just 'Fianna Fail Light'.
In a scathing attack on the party's willingness to tap big business for money, Ms Creighton, who is now European Affairs Minister, said: "Fine Gael in government must be much more than simply 'Fianna Fail Light'. We cannot, on the one hand, condemn Fianna Fail for entertaining developers in the Galway tent, while on the other hand extend the biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers . . ."
Asked when exactly he expects the Government to introduce legislation to reform the funding of political parties, Mr Hogan said: "We will be bringing forward our own legislation as a Government, and we will have it enacted before the summer recess."
According to the promises contained in the Programme for Government, that legislation, should it be enacted, would see donations to political parties and candidates limited to €2,500 and €1,000 respectively, and would require the disclosure of all aggregate donated sums above €1,500 and €600 respectively.
The programme also ultimately commits to introducing the necessary legal and constitutional provisions to ban corporate donations to political parties.