Tuesday 19 March 2019

Labour faces funding shortfall over new union donation laws

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Labour Party will be down almost €100,000 a year when its funding from the trade union movement is hit by new laws clamping down on donations.

Labour TDs, senators and candidates will also lose out on donations from trade unions, which will be virtually outlawed.

The latest list of donations reveals Labour TDs and senators got €40,000 from trade unions to assist their general election campaigns -- €33,500 from SIPTU and another €6,500 from teacher unions.

But the party itself also receives substantial funding from SIPTU. The largest trade union in the country gives up to €98,000 a year to Labour in "affiliation fees" from its members.

The money comes from a 63c contribution from each member of SIPTU, which goes into the party's political fund.

If a member objects to their 63c going to Labour, the union provides an assurance their money will go to another cause instead.

In recent years, the contribution from SIPTU to Labour has ranged between €96,000 and €98,000 a year.

Prohibited

Over the past decade, Labour candidates have received €190,000 in declared donations from SIPTU. It gives the maximum allowable donation of €2,500 to any candidate who are members or former staff members of the union.

The most recent figures, released this week, relating to last year's general election, show a swathe of Labour TDs and ministers received the maximum donation from SIPTU.

Among those getting €2,500 from SIPTU were Labour ministers Joan Burton, Ruairi Quinn and Brendan Howlin, along with TDs Anne Ferris, Kevin Humphreys, Colm Keaveney, Ged Nash, Willie Penrose, Emmet Stagg and Jack Wall.

Labour senators John Gilroy, John Kelly and Marie Moloney each also got €2,500 from SIPTU.

But the new legislation on political funding will curtail the donations from unions to Labour.

The Political Funding Bill will mean corporate donations of over €200 will be prohibited unless the donors meet the most strict and exacting conditions.

Donations from trade unions will effectively be treated as corporate donations.

A Labour Party spokesman last night said the contributions from the unions would end and SIPTU said it would also respond to the change in the law.

Irish Independent

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