Tuesday 12 December 2017

Independent candidates refuse to reveal how much election campaigns will cost

Fiach Kelly

TWO Independent potential candidates in the presidential race are refusing to say how much money they will spend in the lead up to the election -- while Labour and Fine Gael will spend almost €1m between them.

With the cost of running a presidential campaign likely to run into the hundreds of thousands of euro, Sean Gallagher or Mary Davis's teams won't say how much they plan to raise.

The spending limit for the campaign is €750,000, after Environment Minister Phil Hogan recently brought it down from €1.3m.

Under rules laid down by the Standards in Public Office commission (SIPO) for presidential elections, all donations of over €635 must be declared and donors can only give €2,539 to a potential candidate.

A spokeswoman for Mary Davis would not put a figure on how much her campaign hoped to raise, but said the strategy was to seek small amounts "such as €20 from a large network of supporters around the country".

She said Ms Davis had taken out a bank loan to finance her campaign so far and would hold fundraising events.

She dismissed rumours that businessman Denis O'Brien was funding Ms Davis's campaign, "There are strict guidelines from SIPO, which state the maximum donation allowed by an individual is €2,500," she said.

Mr Gallagher's campaign team is also declining to say how much it hoped to spend during the campaign.

A spokesman said they too would be focusing on small fundraising events.


Campaign staff said they were running the operation as a "start-up business" and were trying to keep costs down.

Labour expects to spend between €300,000 and €400,000 on Michael D Higgins's campaign, the majority of which will come from party funds and small donations. TDs and senators have been asked to make a donation.

Fine Gael, meanwhile, has remortgaged its headquarters in Upper Mount Street, a short distance from Leinster House, to finance Gay Mitchell's campaign. The party says it has an estimated €500,000 to spend.

Meanwhile, both Mr Higgins and Mr Mitchell have said they will not take their TD or ministerial pensions if elected. Mr Mitchell is entitled to around €25,000 a year from his time as a deputy and junior minister, but he gave up both payments a number of years ago.

Mr Higgins is drawing combined pensions from his time as TD, senator and cabinet minister, which are worth around €80,876 a year. He also received a lump-sum payment of around €170,000, although this is spread out over a period of time.

The next president will have a salary of €250,000, in line with the public sector pay cap.

Irish Independent

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