Friday 28 October 2016

Fionnan Sheahan: Gallagher adds to confusion about 'that' fundraiser

Published 18/05/2012 | 17:00

'Let's get it all clear and out there.' Sean Gallagher's pledge to finally resolve his involvement in an infamous Fianna Fail fundraiser fell somewhat short.

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If anything, the former presidential candidate's version of events changed yet again and provided further confusion.

Mr Gallagher has also revealed there were other fundraisers held by Fianna Fail at the same time as the €5,000-a-head dinner.

In his latest account -- at the Media Future 2012 conference -- of the fundraiser that ultimately scuppered his campaign, Mr Gallagher sought to set the record straight.

"Let's get it all clear and out there. The first thing, let's get to the event, what was the fundraising event? Fianna Fail headquarters had organised a series of events -- and this was one of them -- for local businesses to fund a campaign for the Lisbon Treaty.

"And I was asked, like a number of other business people were in the Dundalk area, to invite local people to this fundraiser to raise money for the Lisbon campaign, which I did," he said.

However, no other fundraisers of this nature around that time, where those in attendance were asked for up to €5,000, have ever been identified.

Fianna Fail can only cite their normal annual draw and national collection as examples of their fundraising that year.

The fundraising dinner was held on July 1, 2008, in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk, Co Louth.

But nobody has ever mentioned it having anything to do with the Lisbon campaign before.

In fact, in a statement to the Irish Independent last October, Fianna Fail was quite specific about where the proceeds were destined.

"We organised it to help defray the cost of the 2007 General Election," the party said.

The Lisbon I referendum took place on June 12 but the fundraising dinner took place on June 1.

Of course, Fianna Fail's funding for the general election and referendum campaigns came from the same pot. And the party now says the funding from 2008 was used to pay off the costs of both the general election and the Lisbon campaigns.

But it would be unusual for the party to be pitching a dinner three weeks after the vote as being a fundraiser "to fund a campaign".

Mr Gallagher also insists again he didn't know the convicted fuel smuggler Hugh Morgan.

Once again, this conflicts with the original version provided by Mr Gallagher.

"He would have been in touch with a number of people he knew to tell them it was on," his spokesman told this newspaper last October.

Exactly how many businesspeople he invited to the fundraiser is still up in the air.

On 'The Frontline' debate, he said he "invited perhaps three or four" but scales this estimate down: "I invited perhaps two to three people at that event," he said.

The details surrounding any other fundraisers held by Fianna Fail at the time, which Mr Gallagher refers to, have never emerged.

Aside from the party's annual Superdraw and annual National Collection, Fianna Fail didn't identify any other fundraisers on top of the Dundalk dinner.

"In 2008, there were a series of fundraising events over the course of the year, ranging from the party's Superdraw and National Collection to the Louth fundraising dinner. All money raised in 2008 went into the party's fundraising and campaigns account.

"This money was used to pay the significant debt accrued during the 2007 General Election campaign and also to fund the party's 2008 Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign," the party said.

"The largest source of fundraising in 2008 was through the party's Superdraw and National Collection, in donations of €100 or less."

In that case, the €5,000-a-head Dundalk dinner was quite the exception.

Irish Independent

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