Saturday 23 March 2019

And so it's all over: The candidates count the cost of failed Áras bids with bills set to top €1m

  • Defeated presidential candidates counting the estimated €1m joint cost of their failed bids last night
  • Independents Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy and Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada were election's big losers
  • Failure to make the quota means they will not be in line to apply to have up to €200k of their spending reimbursed
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina outside Aras an Uachtarain yesterday.
Photo: David Conachy
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina outside Aras an Uachtarain yesterday. Photo: David Conachy

Wayne O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

The defeated presidential candidates were counting the estimated €1m joint cost of their failed bids last night.

Independents Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy and Sinn Fein's Liadh Ni Riada were the election's big losers. Their failure to even make the quota means they will not be in line to apply to have up to €200,000 of their spending reimbursed.

Ms Freeman is now left with a considerable debt after running her campaign on two loans and a number of donations.

Earlier in the campaign she said she had raised €130,000 in loans, including borrowing €120,000 from US-based businessman Des Walsh, her ex-boyfriend.

Under Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) rules, a campaign loan is repayable at an interest rate of 9pc.

Sinn Fein also borrowed to fund Ms Ni Riada's campaign.

She confirmed that €200,000 was raised with a bank loan, with the rest of her campaign paid for with donations and general fundraising.

Sean Gallagher's campaign has come at a substantial personal cost.

Final details of his campaign expenses have not yet been confirmed but last week he said he expected to spend €250,000.

That figure is well short of the €323,318 outlay during his failed 2011 presidential bid, but this time the spend will hit him harder.

Any candidate who secures more than 25pc of the quota in a presidential election can have their expenses reimbursed by the State up to €200,000. This means a candidate needs to secure 12.5pc of the total vote to be eligible for a rebate.

Last time Mr Gallagher comfortably made the quota but this time he fell well short, meaning he will have to foot the entire bill himself.

Yesterday, he said the sum he was likely to lose would be clear in the coming days.

Candidates have their spending capped at €750,000 under campaign rules.

President Michael D Higgins was expected to spend approximately €400,000 on his campaign. He can now apply to have more than half of his outlay reimbursed.

The big winner is Peter Casey, who ran the least expensive campaign, at €79,410. He comfortably made the quota and can now apply to have his full expenses reimbursed.

Gavin Duffy has confirmed that he will lose more than €100,000 on his failed election bid.

Mr Duffy did not offer a final figure yesterday but said it was "definitely more than €100,000".

Earlier in the campaign he estimated his spending would hit the €300,000 mark.

He said his campaign spending would be published under Sipo rules.

Sunday Independent

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