Scathing attack | 

Taoiseach calls Sinn Féin the 'wealthiest political party in Ireland' after Dáil row

The row erupted as Micheál Martin insisted that Fianna Fáil’s fundraising efforts were within the law

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Damien Storan/PA)

John Downing

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has launched a scathing attack on Sinn Féin challenging them to be more open about their finances.

Mr Martin said Sinn Féin was now “the wealthiest political party in Ireland”, with over 200 staff, 50 properties, a fundraising network in the US which yielded $15m in recent years, and a UK inheritance worth £4m.

The row erupted after Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn objected to curtailing a Dáil debate on a new law, the Electoral Reform Bill, to just 90 minutes.

The Donegal TD said the draft law also deals with regulating party fundraising and was aimed at restoring a Fianna Fáil lottery which was struck down by a court action.

“It’s an old-fashioned Fianna Fáil stroke,” Mr Mac Lochlainn said, adding he was surprised Fine Gael and the Green Party in government were going along with the time restriction.

Padraig Mac Lochlainn

Donegal Independent Thomas Pringle, Labour’s Ged Nash, Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats, and Independent Mattie McGrath, all strongly supported the Sinn Féin objection.

The Taoiseach insisted that Fianna Fáil’s fundraising efforts were within the law and he said the move to legislate for a political party fundraising lottery was quite legitimate.

Indicating Mr Mac Lochlainn, the Taoiseach then continued: “With the greatest respect to the deputy opposite – some neck to start lecturing other parties in term of fundraising.”

Mr Martin directly challenged Sinn Féin to look back over their history and try to achieve the same level of transparency in relation to their own fundraising efforts. He listed the Sinn Féin resources and repeatedly emphasised their fundraising in the US.

The Taoiseach also pointed out that Labour benefitted from trade union funds – even though many of the trade union members were traditional Fianna Fáil voters.

“So, let’s get off the stage – and let’s not pretend this is some kind of stroke,” Mr Martin said.

The Taoiseach said Fianna Fáil, and other parties, had brought in laws on political fundraising over the past 20 years and Ireland had some of the best standards compared with other countries.

Opposition efforts to extend the debating time were defeated.

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