Libertas will have to 'come clean' over campaign funds
Published 19/09/2008 | 00:00
THE Government is planning a clampdown on organisations such as Declan Ganley's Libertas to force them to say where they get the money they spend on political campaigns.
After months of speculation about the source of Libertas' funding for its estimated spend of over €1m on the 'No to Lisbon' campaign, Mr Ganley admitted for the first time yesterday that he lent his organisation €200,000.
Meanwhile, the Government's attacks on Mr Ganley intensified yesterday when a minister branded the wealthy Libertas chief a "class-A hypocrite".
The ethics law changes on declaring donations are expected to be in place before any possible second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Under the current law, Libertas does not have to declare where the money came from or even how much was actually spent.
The situation regarding Libertas' funding stands in in stark contrast to that of the political parties, which must all make detailed spending and donations returns.
Environment Minister John Gormley's officials are examining the ethics laws to work out how the legislation should be changed.
"Under law currently, he [Declan Ganley] is not obliged to make that declaration," Mr Gormley said. "That is an oversight. Certainly, there are no questions about it that they were very well funded.
"I'm not 100pc sure where the money came from but under law he is quite entitled to behave in the way he is behaving. That has now to be addressed."
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also called for the change in the law, saying it was disconcerting to have someone new to the scene who could spend more than all the other parties.
"It's hypocritical in the extreme that we don't know where the funds for the Libertas campaign have come from," he said.
The issue may be handed over to the new Electoral Commission, whenever it is set up, but is expected to be resolved by the next time the country goes to the polls -- particularly if that happens to be a Lisbon II referendum.
until now, Mr Ganley had always maintained Libertas got its funds from small donations and insisted he only gave a donation under the legal limit.
But in a dramatic development, while speaking to Today FM, he finally admitted he was the biggest bankroller of the organisation, loaning Libertas €200,000 -- without any guarantee of getting it back.
However, he rejected suggestions the money might have come from US government sources.
"Where Libertas is concerned, the loan that I made is hard-earned money made over many years that my wife and I had saved up, and it is not coming from any of these sources (CIA, US government)," he said.
Fresh revelations about Mr Ganley's links to the US military prompted a bitter row between the multi-millionaire entrepreneur and European Affairs Minister Dick Roche.
The radio spat occurred after it emerged US military contracts are worth more than €200m to the Libertas founder, through his company Rivada Networks.
Mr Roche said a contract awarded to Mr Ganley in September 2004 did not involve any public procurement, making it a so-called "sweetheart deal".
According to Mr Roche, this makes Mr Ganley a hypocrite because he is calling for openness and transparency to apply in Europe yet winning a lucrative eight-year contract with the US department of defence behind closed doors.
But a furious Mr Ganley hit back, saying Mr Roche had a "playschool" approach to business and was talking rubbish.
"It is to allow new, young companies get on to a level playing pitch when competing with huge companies," Mr Ganley said. You (Mr Roche) are speaking through your hat about issues of which you know very little indeed. We comply with the laws of the country within which we operate."
Mr Roche was talking "utter rubbish" and didn't know the basics of management, Mr Ganley said.
He added that Noel Dempsey, when he was communications minister, congratulated Rivada on its success.
Mr Dempsey's officials do not recall the specific meeting Mr Ganley is referring to, but do not dispute his version of events.