Saturday 24 March 2018

Coalition parties to lose €3m in State cash

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin to get more funds after election

Gerry Adams: Sinn Féin will get an extra €320,000. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Gerry Adams: Sinn Féin will get an extra €320,000. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The outgoing Government parties are set to lose more than €3m in State funding after their disastrous election results.

The Labour Party alone is now facing a nose-dive in the taxpayers' cash of around €2m a year due to the decimation of the party. A party spokesman conceded that the loss of the funding would have a "very significant impact".

Fine Gael's loss will be more than €1m.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, on the other hand, will enjoy healthy increases in State funding of at least €580,000 and €320,000 respectively.

Smaller parties, such as Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, the Social Democrats and the Greens, are also eligible for funds after securing more than 2pc of the vote.

Ultimately, the sums allocated won't be determined until all of the Dáil and Seanad seats are filled.

The Irish Independent's calculations are based on the sums allocated in 2014 - the most recent figures available - and the state of play of the parties' seat numbers.

A Labour spokesman said it was too early to assess the loss of funding, but admitted: "Clearly it will have a very significant impact on the Labour Party, no doubt about it."

A Fine Gael spokesman said the party would not be assessing the impact of the election on the funds it receives from the State "until all the seats are filled".

The funds are paid out under two categories and have been used to cover costs ranging from the general administration of party organisations to hiring public relations consultants, research and policy development.

Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have all used the State funding to top up their leaders' salaries while in opposition.

Enda Kenny received an annual €48,344 top-up on his salary in the years before he became Taoiseach.

Labour's Eamon Gilmore and his then deputy leader Joan Burton had their salaries topped up by a combined €22,100 in 2010.

Micheál Martin's salary was topped up to the tune of €30,000 using the fund in 2014.

Under the Electoral Act 1997, the sums allocated to the parties are in line with the percentage of first-preference votes they got in the last general election.

The Parliamentary Activities Allowance is based on the number of TDs and Senators and parties in government get a third less funding in this category.

Parties are restricted from spending the money from either of the two funds directly on election or referendum expenses. With Labour's 6.6pc of the vote - and six TDs in place last night - the party is in line for around €840,000 in State funding a year, based on the 2014 allocations, when it received almost €3m.

It will get more, depending on how many Senators it has after the forthcoming Seanad election.

Fine Gael got €4.8m in 2014, but that will be down to around €3.5m - again not taking into account the Seanad results.

The Social Democrats, who secured 3pc of the vote in the election, are now in line to receive state funding.

"Obviously, we're happy that we qualify for it," the party's joint leader Stephen Donnelly said. We're still only going to get a tiny fraction of what the big parties get but at least we can start to build.

"We can now hire someone to head up policy, we can hire someone to do organisational development.

"We can hire someone to do admin. So it's a start," said Mr Donnelly.

With 2.2pc of first preference votes, Renua Ireland is also eligible for funding under the Electoral Act 1997.

Irish Independent

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