Wednesday 16 January 2019

Varadkar banks €1m for FG elections warchest

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Arthur Carron
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Arthur Carron
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has put almost €1m into the Fine Gael election warchest for next year's local and European elections.

The extension of the Confidence and Supply deal with Fianna Fáil has pushed the general election out to 2020. It frees the party up to pump funds into next May’s elections instead.

The party has banked €965,000 from its annual ‘Superdraw’, the most lucrative political fundraiser in the country.

The top prize of €20,000 was won by a party supporter from Cork, who is a cousin of Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard – a close ally of Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

The party leadership was worried about ticket sales this year and ministers were told last month to make a bigger effort. In the end, 12,058 tickets were sold at €80 a head.

The take from the party's annual raffle is almost the same as last year, when €964,000 was taken in.

But it’s a far cry from the heyday of a decade ago when Fine Gael consistently raked in well over €1m.

Fine Gael describes the superdraw as its single biggest source of fundraising.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny overhauled the party’s fundraising operation when he took over as leader following the 2002 general election meltdown.

The high point for the fundraiser came in 2006 when the party took in €1.4m to fund its comeback in the 2007 general election.

The draw went into decline during Mr Kenny’s latter years as party leader, but has bounced back to a degree since Mr Varadkar took over.

Although the political parties receive substantial funding from the taxpayer, they are not allowed to spend this money on election campaigns, making fundraising vital.

The local and European elections take place on Friday, May 24, 2019.

The first prize in Fine Gael's raffle was €20,000, with another 14 prizes worth from €10,000 down to €1,000, and a batch of smaller prizes in every constituency.

FG raffle takings

2002: €800,000

2003: €900,000

2004: €1.1m

2005: €1.3m

2006: €1.4m

2007: €1.3m

2008: €1.3m

2009: €1.2m

2010: €1.1m

2011: €976,000

2012: €890,000

2013: €780,000

2014: No comment but “way down”

2015: No figure available

2016: No figure available

2017: €964,000

2018: €965,000

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