Fianna Fáil pocketed €500,000 in “charity money” to help cover election expenses

Fianna Fáil pocketed over €500,000 by declaring herself a “charity” to run a fundraiser, the party’s accounts show.

aoiseach Micheál Martin’s party needed the money to pay off debts after spending €1.2 million on parliamentary elections.

But changes to gambling laws introduced by a Fianna Fáil minister meant that only “charities and philanthropic causes” could be granted a license to hold a lottery.

Fianna Fáil went to court last year seeking permission as a “charity” to hold its annual raffle. But a second attempt this year to run the draw as a “charity” was thwarted by a legal challenge.

The law was then amended this summer by Fianna Fáil’s Minister Darragh O’Brien to exempt the major political parties from any restrictions. Dubbed a “good old-style Fianna Fáil punch,” the legislative change will allow major political parties to raise millions between elections.

Financial reports released today by the party for the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis show that the party has used the funds from the ‘charity’ raffle to reduce its debt from general election spending.

“In terms of party fundraising, the Covid-19 crisis continued to impact our ability to hold our annual national collection, but the party successfully held our national superdraw following its cancellation in 2020, raising an impressive €507,436,” says the party.

The 2021 Fianna Fáil National Superdraw was conducted under a license granted to the party by declaring itself a “charity” in District Court, despite legislation and a Supreme Court ruling that 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 has been limited by the pandemic. Fianna Fáil has had to cancel most of her fundraisers due to Covid-19, such as B. Church gate gatherings and the annual dinner known as the Cairde Fáil.

Fianna Fáil ran a mini raffle in 2020 to help with election costs and this appears to have raised the bulk of the €186,000 raised through donations that year. According to the information, the Fianna Fáil headquarters spent 1.2 million euros on the general election campaign. At the end of 2020, the year of the general elections, Fianna Fáil’s debts amounted to 817,000 euros.

Most of the money raised from the “charity” raffle was used to pay off this debt. Accounts signed by junior minister Niall Collins and party treasurer Kevin Fitzgerald say the party will be debt-free by the end of this year.

“In 2021, a year without an election, the party incurred €35,756 in one-off campaign costs related to the Dublin Bay South bye election. This would be normal for all parties at this stage of the Dáil cycle. This allowed the party to further reduce its debt to €361,582 and we expect to fully settle our debt by the end of 2022. Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the lowest debt position the party has had at this stage of the Dáil cycle in the last 30 years and is largely due to the strong financial footing the party has in has created in recent years,” says the balance sheet.

A last-minute change in new legislation, which is said to be reforming the political system, will allow political parties to hold their raffles again without the restrictions for charity. The bill, introduced by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, means parties can actually apply to the District Court for a lottery license. There is no mention of a limit on the amount of money that can be collected. The prize money is capped at €360,000, showing the scale of fundraising.

The government’s move follows Fianna Fáil being forced to cancel her planned 2022 raffle, which was set to raise a further €500,000, after declaring herself a “charity” to obtain a licence. A license granted to Fianna Fáil was challenged in court last Christmas, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin named in the proceedings. Fianna Fáil pocketed €500,000 in “charity money” to help cover election expenses

Fry Electronics Team

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