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Minister Phil Hogan publishes legislation to comprehensively reform political funding and donations

Published on Thursday, 15 Dec 2011

Minister Phil Hogan publishes legislation to comprehensively reform political funding and donations

15/12/11

-New Bill also includes a 30% gender balance requirement for political party candidates at the next general election, rising to 40% after a further seven years-

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan T.D., has today (15 December, 2011) published what he described as a far-reaching and progressive piece of political reform legislation.  The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will now go before the Dáil and Seanad.

“Reform of political funding has been promised for years, and although the Government has been in office only 9 months, we are now presenting a far-reaching and progressive piece of political reform legislation which will significantly enhance the openness and transparency of political funding in Ireland.  This legislation will address issues of serious public concern in the operation of political funding arrangements in Ireland.  Corporate donations will be restricted, political party accounts published, the maximum amount that can be accepted as a political donation will be more than halved and the transparency of such donations significantly enhanced.

This legislation will also change the face of politics forever.  Currently there are 25 women TDs, which is just over 15% of the members of Dáil Éireann.  This is the highest percentage ever achieved.  At the next general election political parties will have to select at least 30% women and 30% men candidates or face losing half their State funding.  Seven years from the general election where this provision first applies, this will rise to 40%. I am bringing forward this measure in order to address an issue of major concern in the functioning of Ireland’s democratic system where women are significantly underrepresented”,
Minister Hogan said.
Main features of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011

Corporate donations
The Bill published today provides that corporate donations of over €200 will be prohibited unless the donors meet the most strict and exacting conditions.  They will have to provide details of their membership and shareholders and copies of their accounts and annual reports to the Standards in Public Office Commission each year.  Details of donors will be included on a register to be published on the Commission’s website.  Each donation will have to be approved by a General Meeting of the members of the corporation or body.

These provisions will apply to all corporate and unincorporated bodies.  The provisions will apply to companies, partnerships, trade unions, trusts, co-operatives, societies, building societies, charitable organisations, non-governmental organisations, clubs, associations, and any other unincorporated bodies of persons.   In other words, all bodies and organisations other than natural persons.

Political donations
There will be a reduction in the limits on political donations that may be accepted.  These limits will fall from €6,348 to €2,500 for donations received by a political party.  For a candidate or elected representative the limit will fall from  €2,539 to €1,000.

There will be a reduction in the thresholds at which donations must be declared to the Standards in Public Office Commission.  For a political party the limit will fall from €5,078 to €1,500.  For a candidate or elected representative the limit will fall from €634 to €600.
Companies, trade unions, societies and building societies will have to report all donations over €200 in their annual reports.  Currently such bodies only have to report donations over €5,078.
The threshold for all other donors, other than companies, trade unions, societies and building societies, in reporting their donations to the Standards in Public Office Commission will also fall from a figure of €5,078 for aggregate donations given in the same year to an aggregate figure €1,500.

Audit and publication of political party accounts
The Bill will address the need for improved transparency in political funding arrangements by providing for the submission by political parties of financial accounts to the Standards in Public Office Commission.  This information will be published to facilitate greater transparency for citizens in knowing where political parties get their income, and where they spend their money.  Political parties that do not comply with these new requirements face having their State funding withdrawn.  Currently political parties receive €5,456,094 annually in funding from the Exchequer under the Electoral Acts.

Gender balance provisions
As an incentive to encourage the selection of a greater number of women candidates, the new legislation includes a provision that political parties will face a cut of half their State political funding if they do not have at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next general election.  This will then rise to 40% after a further 7 years. Payments made to political parties under the Electoral Acts are linked to performance at a general election.  These new requirements will therefore apply in respect of candidates of political parties at a general election.

At the General Election held in February 2011, 86 of the 566 candidates that sought election were women, representing 15.19% of the total.

Currently there are 25 women TDs, which is 15.06% of the members of Dáil Éireann.  This is highest percentage ever achieved.  Prior to 2011, the level of representation amongst women in Dáil Éireann has never exceeded 14%.

The Bill is available on the Oireachtas website.  www.oireachtas.ie

ENDS

Press and Information Office
Tel: (01) 888 2638  (direct)
(01) 888 2000
E-Mail: press-office@environ.ie

Web site: www.environ.ie

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