Fianna Fáil pocketed €500k ‘charity’ cash from fundraiser to cover election spending
Fianna Fáil pocketed over €500,000 by declaring itself a ‘charity’ to run a fundraising draw, the party’s accounts reveal
Fianna Fáil pocketed over €500,000 by declaring itself a ‘charity’ to run a fundraising draw, the party’s accounts reveal.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s party needed the money to pay off debts after spending €1.2m on the 2020 general election.
But changes to gambling laws, brought in by a Fianna Fáil minister, meant only “charities and philanthropic causes” could get a licence to run a lottery.
Fianna Fáil went to court last year and applied as a ‘charity’ to get permission to run its annual raffle. But a second attempt to run the draw this year as a ‘charity’ was thwarted by a legal challenge.
The law was then changed by Fianna Fáil Minister Darragh O’Brien this summer to exempt the big political parties from any restrictions.
It was described as a “good old-style Fianna Fáil stroke”, by Labour finance spokesperson Ged Nash.
The change in legislation will allow the big political parties to raise millions between elections.
Financial accounts published by the party today for the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis show the party used the funding from the ‘charity’ draw to lower its debt from spending on the general election.
“In terms of the party’s fundraising, the Covid-19 crisis continued to impact on our ability to hold our annual National Collection but the party successfully held our National Superdraw after its cancellation in 2020 and impressively raised €507,436,” the party says.
The 2021 Fianna Fáil National Superdraw was run under a licence granted to the party by declaring itself a ‘charity’ in the District Court, despite laws and a Supreme Court ruling stating political parties are not charities.
The €507,000 figure is down on the €588,000 raised in 2019 and €537,000 in 2018, but the party’s ability to sell tickets was restricted by the pandemic. Fianna Fáil had to cancel most of its fundraising, such as church gate collections and an annual dinner, known as the Cairde Fáil, due to Covid-19.
It did run a mini-draw raffle in 2020 to help with the cost of the election and this appears to have brought in the bulk of the €186,000 brought in from fundraising that year. Fianna Fáil headquarters spent €1.2m on the general election campaign, according to the accounts. At the end of 2020, the year of the general election, Fianna Fáil’s debt stood at €817,000.
The bulk of the ‘charity’ raffle funding was put towards cutting this debt. The accounts signed by Junior Minister Niall Collins and treasurer Kevin Fitzgerald say the party will be debt-free by the end of this year.
“In 2021, a non-election year, the party incurred one campaign cost of €35,756 relating to the Dublin Bay South bye-election. This would be normal at this stage of the Dáil cycle for all parties.
"This allowed the party to reduce its debt level further to €361,582 and we expect to fully clear our debt by the end of 2022.
"In spite of the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented, this is the lowest debt position the party has had at this stage of the Dáil cycle over the last 30 years and is due largely to the strong financial foundations put in place by the party in previous years,” the Ard Fheis accounts say.
A last-minute change to new legislation, supposedly reforming the political system, will allow the political parties to go back to running their raffles without the charity restrictions. The law will mean parties can indeed apply to the District Court for a lottery licence.
BREAKTHROUGH | Man (60s) and woman (50s) arrested on suspicion of ‘Baby John’ murder in Kerry
BAIL GRANTED | Face of Co Antrim woman (29) accused of sexual activity with underage boy
long read | Jasmine McMonagle’s killer told gardaí ‘there was no one to stop me’, trial heard
Well doir-served | Doireann Garrihy heads on first holiday with new boyfriend Mark Mehigan
inundated | Gardai 'overwhelmed' with complaints against GAA legend accused of taking millions in cancer scam
'SAVAGE' | Man (19) jailed after gang attack left teenager Alanna Quinn Idris blind in one eye
Dark day | Renters feel ‘abandoned’ as eviction ban deadline approaches, charity says
Buying Without Wings | Inside Westlife star Mark Feehily’s stunning Dublin home which he sold for €2.3m
CRIME WORLD | The new sanctions on Edin Gacanin and the global effort to take down Kinahan cartel
Public appeal | Man (60s) charged with alleged incident of indecent exposure in Portlaoise