Party debates church collections
Fianna Fail chiefs wrestling with the party's debts are gearing up for a row with grassroots members who want to abolish the traditional church gate collection.
The lucrative money-spinner outside mostly Catholic chapels across the country netted close to a quarter of a million euro for the party coffers last year alone.
The cash has made a huge contribution towards halving Fianna Fail's bank debts since being ejected from government to around 1.2 million euro.
But some rank-and-file members who have condemned the age-old church collections as "bad taste" and "outdated" have forced a debate at this weekend's ard fheis.
Dara Calleary, Fianna Fail's jobs spokesman, has already signalled top-level backing among party leadership for the fund-raising drives.
"The church gate collection is incredibly important from a revenue point of view but also from a point of view of our members getting out and about," he said.
Setting out his stall, he said he will be driving back to his own constituency straight after leader Micheal Martin's keynote address to the conference at Dublin's RDS on Saturday to take part in a church collection.
The Mayo TD insisted the practice was not outdated and did not align Fianna Fail solely to the Catholic church. "We are not fussy what church we collect outside, we will collect outside any church," he said.
But Malachy Noone, a Galway county councillor whose cumman (local party organisation) put the issue on the agenda, said it was time to scrap the collections.
"It's about time political parties gave up church collections. It is not the place to do it. It is not in the best taste," he said.