THE MORIARTY REPORT’S recommendations on political donations could be given legal effect by a new bill being published by Fianna Fáil today – if the party is able to secure cross-party support.
Fianna Fáil says that the bill implements key recommendations of the Moriarty Tribunal, cuts donation limits and introduces an effective ban on corporate donations – to “dramatically increase the levels of transparency in political funding and expenditure”, according to leader Micheál Martin. The party is now attempting to drum up support in order to ensure that the changes are in force before the summer recess.
Martin said: “Rather than waiting for months and potentially not changing the situation until early next year at the latest, we believe that the government should support this bill and allow it to go forward to committee where amendments can be made.”
The bill proposes that all corporate donations over €100 would have to be declared within 14 days, authorised by a general meeting and registered with the Standards in Public Offices Commission; it also proposes that all companies, directors and significant shareholders would have to declare and current or potential public contracts at the time of making any donation.
After seeking legal advice, the party said it was confident that an outright ban of a type of donation at this stage would be unconstitutional. “We have taken extensive legal advice in drafting this bill,” Martin said. “To go further would, we are advised, require a constitutional referendum, which we are committed to proposing be held on the same day as the Presidential election later this year.”
The bill will also propose the following changes:
- Reducing allowable individual donations to political parties from €6348 to €4000, with the level at which these must be publicly declared to fall from €5078 to €2500
- Requiring the publication of donation statements within 25 days of polling (currently 58 days for unsuccessful candidates and 31 March of the following year for successful candidates)
- Provides for Standards in Public Office (SIPO) to audit the accounts of political parties each year, with the income and expenditure account, balance sheet and donations statement to be published
- Extending SIPO supervision to further independent expenditures in referenda
- Implementing recommendations of Justice Moriarty relating to extending provisions to independent or non-party candidates