independent

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Democracy costs - what candidates spent in 2016

Recently released figures show what they shelled out in 2016

Margaret Roddy

Standing for election is a costly affair as the figures released by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) showing how much the various candidates amounts candidates and political parties spent in the 2016 general election.

Poll topper Declan Breathnach (FF) was the constituency's biggest spender, forking out €26,004.31 on his campaign, over twice that of his party colleague Cllr Emma Coffey who spent €9,946.85.

He was followed by Sinn Fein's Imelda Munster whose €23,473.92 saw her become Louth's first ever female TD and the party's first for Drogheda. Her colleague and party leader Gerry Adams spent €12,930.96, which saw him first past the post.

Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick spent €15,674.18 while his colleague Fergus O'Dowd spent €15,360.79 and both were re-elected.

There was no joy for outgoing Labour TD Ged Nash who spent €20,473.92 on his campaign although he was subsequently elected to the Seanad.

His party colleague Mary Moran, who had been a member of the previous Seanad, also failed to take a seat, having spent €10,575.79.

Likewise, Cllr Kevin Callan (non party) didn't see a return for his €10,680.85.

There was wide disparity between what the candidates from the main parties spent compared to those from smaller parties and Independents.

Sinn Fein emerged as the party which spent the most on its campaign in Louth with a total of €36,377.27, ahead of Fianna Fail with €35,951.16, and Fine Gael who, despite being the biggest spenders nationally, were only third in Louth on €31,014.97, just ahead of Labour who failed to return a TD despite spending €31,049.51.

Dundalk councillor Maeve Yore was the biggest spender of the non-party candidates but her budget of €11,240.13 didn't translate into votes.

The Green Party's councillor and former Senator Mark Dearey spent €7,554.74, while former Fine Gael member Michael O'Dowd who stood for Renua, spent €7,536.53. Garrett Weldon of the Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit spent €6,966. Pat Green (Direct Democracy) spent €1,460.50, while Drogheda's David Bradley (non party), spent least of all the candidates who stood in the election with a total of €413.79.

Anthony Connor, who ran from Direct Democracy Ireland spent a total of €1,500.

Advertising in newspapers, posters and leaflets emerged as the biggest expenses for candidates, although a number of candidates also spent money on social media, mainly Facebook advertisements.

If you ever wondered at the amount of money spent on the posters which seem to appear on every pole and the election literature clogging up your letter box, it's because these are among the favourite ways which candidates use to encourage voters to support them,

Declan Breathnach spent a whopping €12,473.95 on posters as well as €8,345.50 on election material such as leaflets and letters, and €3,367.65 on advertising.

He assigned €18,080 of his spend to the Fianna Fail party.

Peter Fitzpatrick's spend of €5,547.36 on election posters also included a Louth County Council fine of €150.

The Fine Gael TD from Dundalk also spent €6,216.29 on advertising and €2,218.59. His colleague from Drogheda, Fergus O'Dowd spent €4,115.40 on advertising, €8114.06 on posters, and €2,931.33 on other election material. He spent €649.62 on staff costs for campaign work which was originally met out of public funds. Both candidates assigned €20,340 to the Fine Gael party,

Imelda Munster's biggest expense was leaflets and other election material on which she spent €14,467.28, in addition to €4,129.30 on posters and €3,753.90 on advertising. She also assigned €3,000 to Sinn Fein. Leaflets etc also accounted for the greatest part of her colleague Gerry Adam's budget, although he just spent €5,589.95.

He also spent €3,901 on posters and €2477.25 on advertising.

Unsuccessful Labour candidate Ged Nash spent €6,977.79 on leaflets and other materials, €6,671 on advertising and €6,124.26 on posters.

He assigned €18,080 or 40% of his spend to the Labour Party,as did his party colleague Mary Moran, who spent €4,021.17, €4,000 on posters and €2,004.62 on leaflets and other materials.

A number of candidates detailed expenditure on photography, web design cable ties for posters, hi-vis vests, office equipment and stationary, fuel, taxi fares, and an overnight hotel stay for a tv appearance. Only one, Ged Nash, spent money on market research (€500.00)

The legislation requires unsuccessful candidates to disclose donations with Mary Moran declaring €3,000 and Maeve Yore €500 and €866.20.

The law provides for the reimbursement of election expenses to qualified candidates at a Dáil general election. In order to qualify for a reimbursement, a candidate must either have been elected at the election, or if not elected, have exceeded one quarter of the quota in the constituency at any stage of the counting of votes.

Those who failed to meet the quota in Louth were David Brady, Anthony Connor, Pat Green, and Mary Moran.

The Standards in Public Office Commission website, sipo.ie, gives a breakdown of expenditure for each candidate in their election campaign.

Drogheda Independent

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